Author: David Alton
Question in the Lords on 3% Mesothelioma Levy – Liverpool conference on Mesothelioma and the Law – reply from Lord Freud
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the reply by Lord Faulks on 9 December 2014 (HL Deb, col 1710), what evidence they have for the assertion that a lack of good research proposals is deterring research into mesothelioma and that there are no problems concerning availability of funding. HL3669
†Tuesday 9 December at 2.30pm
†*Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the decision of the High Court that the consultation on mesothelioma legal fees was unlawful, and the lack of new funding for mesothelioma research, what is their policy with regard to combatting mesothelioma and supporting victims.
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the decision of the High Court that the consultation on mesothelioma legal fees was unlawful, and the lack of new funding for mesothelioma research, what is their policy with…
View original 4,308 more words
New report launched at Westminster on the lack of religious freedom in North KoreaNorth Korea; personal Testimony given in Parliament by a North Korean Disabled Man about the Plight of disabled People in the DPRK; and the Chilling Findings of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry – and Calls in Parliament For BBC World Service Transmissions To Korea.
Chilling testimony of the evils of North Korea’s regime
December 10th 2014 : New report launched at Westminster on the lack of religious freedom in North Korea:
Read the full report and executive summary at:
On 10 December – international human rights day – the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) published the findings of its Parliamentary Inquiry into persecution in North Korea. The report, Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, includes witness accounts of the horrific human rights abuses suffered by religious and belief minorities in the country, which often go unheard because of the secrecy of the regime.
It concludes: “The DPRK systematically oppresses freedom of religion or belief, and Christians in particular are targeted by the regime and subjected to chronic human rights abuses, amounting to crimes against humanity.”
The report makes a number of recommendations to the British Government, including that it continue pursuing the referral of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to the International Criminal Court to account for its treatment of its citizens.
It also recommends that the UK invest in long-term strategic engagement with North Korea. Some of the practical suggestions include: educational exchanges, investing in the 30,000 North Korean people who have managed to escape, breaking the information blockade, critical engagement on human rights and the re-instigation of the ‘Six Party Talks’. Further, it urges the BBC World Service to establish a radio broadcast to the Korean Peninsula, in both English and Korean languages, giving citizens a window out of their closed world.
The report was launched at a meeting chaired by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Vice Chair of the APPG on North Korea. Those present heard of routine, horrific suffering at the hands of the DPRK state, with the Rev. Stuart Windsor, of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, sharing that “Between 1997 and 2007 an estimated one million North Koreans died or were killed in prison while the West has been silent”. The meeting also heard of the ingrained suspicion of religion from Kim, Joo-il, who told how “In North Korea, anti-religious education starts at six-seven years – people are taught to antagonise religion”. While Zoe Smith, of Open Doors UK & Ireland, highlighted a strong message of the APPG’s report, that the current situation in the DPRK “needs the ‘world citizen’ to step up to the table and say ‘enough’s enough’. Change is needed.”
Baroness Berridge, chairman of the APPG, commented: “For the past sixty-plus years, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has committed egregious human rights violations – the details of which would turn the stomach of even the most hardened person.
This includes banishing those who follow a religion to remote places, incarcerating them, subjecting them to torture in labour camps, and murdering Christians for merely possessing a Bible…For many years North Korea has been viewed as an impossible case, but now the international community is finally beginning to afford the country the attention its people so desperately need.”
Lord Alton, chairman of the APPG on North Korea and Vice-chair of the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, highlighted that “Christmas spent in a North Korean gulag will be just another day of grotesque suffering”, concluding that “We who enjoy political and religious freedom; free to practice our faith; free to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, must speak out and take practical actions to help bring the long winter of oppression to an end. This Report should be essential Christmas reading for Governments, MPs, and policy makers”.
Executive Summary To the Report
In February 2014, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Human Rights in the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) released a 400 page report documenting chronic,
wide‐spread human rights abuses in the DPRK. The COI concludes that: “there is no effective freedom
of religious belief in the DPRK. Such belief is treated as basically incompatible with, and hostile to, the
state‐sponsored personality cult surrounding Kim Il‐sung and his descendants. Countless numbers of
persons in the DPRK who attempt to practise their religious beliefs have been severely punished, even
Therefore, the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom concluded that it
was necessary to write a report devoted to this particular aspect of the human rights abuses in the
DPRK. The All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief was
established in June 2012 and published its first report in May 2013. It is supported by groups from
across the religion and belief spectrum, as well as interested individuals, and groups campaigning for
human rights. The All Party Parliamentary Group aims to champion the right of all people across the
world to enjoy the freedom bestowed by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It was founded on the principle that it would direct its
attention where the need is greatest and the possibility for change is highest.
This Report seeks to provide an overview of the situation facing religion in the DPRK, including the
history of faith on the peninsula, the chronic abuse of followers of religion in the DPRK where Kim Ilsung
is reported to have said that “religious people should die to cure their habit”,2 possible signs of
hope and suggestions of ways forward for the international community to address the seemingly
The DPRK is one of the most closed states in the world. Therefore, it presents an almost unique
challenge in obtaining up‐to‐date and verifiable statistics and witness statements. Nevertheless, the
inquiry was able to hear testimonies from DPRK refugees, NGOs, experts and academics, and believes
that the evidence it received is credible. For security purposes, a number of these witnesses’
identities have been withheld.
Furthermore, the majority of the evidence concerning religion in the DPRK details the situation of
Christians in that country. This is partially because many of those who attempt to engage with the
DPRK are Christians, but also because, as the COI reported, “the spread of Christianity is considered
by the DPRK a particularly serious threat”3 and therefore Christians are subjected to especially harsh
treatment and warrant the particular interest of human rights groups. This is evident throughout the
Report but, nonetheless, this Report aims to address the overall treatment of religions in the DPRK.
1 Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 2014
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/CommissionInquiryonHRinDPRK.aspx para, 258
2 Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 2014, para, 253
3 Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 2014, para, 264,
Korea has a rich religious heritage. Buddhism, Confucianism and Shamanism have been practiced on
the Korean peninsula for centuries with other religions, such as Christianity and Tonghak arriving
much later – Christianity first in the 1600s and Tonghak in the 1800s. Such was the widespread
adherence to Christianity in North Korea that, by the twentieth century, Pyongyang was known as
“the Jerusalem of the East.” Pope John Paul II said that the Korean church was “unique in the story of
Since the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945 religion has been restricted and then
systematically suppressed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Before the Korean
War of 1950‐1953, Kim Il‐sung’s policies squeezed religious organisations, annexing their sources of
finance and restricting their ability to meet. Increasingly, those who refused to collaborate with the
regime were banished to remote, hostile parts of the country, imprisoned in labour or prison camps,
or killed. Those who could fled South to the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Atrocities were committed against religious groups during the Korean War, particularly against
Christians, such as massacres, torture and forced death marches. Bishops, ministers, priests, nuns
and lay people were routinely murdered. Atrocities were also reported by self‐styled Christian
groups, and the predominant religion of the ROK’s Western allies completed the creation of religious
and political associations during the war.
After 1953 the DPRK retreated into isolationism and Kim Il‐sung focussed on consolidating his rule by
wiping out opposition, including religious groups. From 1953 to the early 1970s it appeared as if
religion had been completely wiped from the DPRK. “(We) cannot carry such religiously active people
along our march toward a communist society. Therefore, we have tried and executed all religious
leaders higher than a deacon in the Protestant and Catholic churches. Among other religiously active
people, those deemed malignant were all put to trial. Among ordinary religious believers, those who
recanted were given jobs while those who did not were held in prison camps.” – Kim Il‐sung, 1962.
During this time, the songbun system was introduced to the DPRK. This categorised citizens into
three groups, with an additional 51 sub‐groups. These groups were ‘core class, wavering class and
hostile class’. Followers of religion were assigned to the lower rungs of the ‘hostile class’ and
banished to remote areas, labour or prison camps. Religion was forced underground with followers
meeting secretly and at great risk. One refugee described how he and his wife hid under a blanket to
sing hymns, whereas another reported how their friend was taken to one of the most notorious
prison camps in the DPRK after being seen saying grace over dinner.
Furthermore, a system of three‐generational guilt was introduced, meaning that if one person were
found to be religious, three generations of their family would suffer as a result. As in the cases of Ms
Seo Keum Ok and Ms Ryi Hyuk Ok. Ms Seo Keum Ok was arrested in 2009 for distributing Bibles and
suffered ‘indescribable torture’. Her husband was also imprisoned and her children went missing.
Also in 2009, Ms Ryi Hyuk Ok was executed for distributing Bibles. Her husband, children and parents
were sent to a political prison camp.
When in a camp, religious followers and particularly Christians are subject to especially harsh
treatment. One woman, arrested for her faith, was “assigned to pull the cart used to remove
excrement from the prison latrines. Several times the guards made her lick off excrement that had
spilled over in order to humiliate and discipline her.”
Persecution of religious groups is well‐known. Of all the refugees interviewed by the Database Centre
for North Korean Human Rights, 99.7% said that there is no religious freedom in North Korea. The
interviewees’ testimonies showed that victims of religious persecution were 45.5% Protestant, 0.2%
Catholic, 1.3% Buddhist, 1.7% no religion, 1.1% ‘others’ and 50.3% unknown. Many religious people
are discovered when forcibly repatriated to the DPRK after trying to flee. More often than not, they
are repatriated from China, in violation of the international principle of non‐refoulement.
The DPRK has instituted its own national ideology, Juche, which merged with what is known as
‘Kimilsungism’ in the 1970s to create a quasi‐religious ideology. All DPRK citizens are demanded to
adhere to Juche, which has no tolerance of separate belief systems, thereby providing further fodder
for religious persecution. With the introduction of The Ten Principles in 1974, DPRK citizens were
commanded to “Accept the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il‐sung’s revolutionary thought as your belief
and take the Great Leader’s instructions as your creed.”
Despite this bleak outlook, there have been some visible displays of religion in the DPRK. In the early
1970s various national religious institutions appeared. Furthermore, from the late 1980s, statesponsored
churches were erected in Pyongyang and Buddhist temples were permitted to hold
national celebrations. The language of the Constitution and also the dictionary definitions around
religion have also changed, dropping many of the negative connotations therein.
The implication of these developments is hotly debated. Many argue that they are no more than
Potemkin‐style attempts to convince the international community that there is religious freedom in
the DPRK in order to encourage investment and to appease international criticism. Indeed, there are
reports of church congregations being bussed in for services or Buddhist guides hurriedly donning a
tonsure when seeing a tourist group.
However, others suggest that these changes may point to a very slight opening for at least those
historic religious followers in the DPRK and that it points to a comprehension of the importance of
the right to freedom of religion or belief to the international community. Nonetheless, any
understanding that this implies is directly at odds with the continued systemic oppression of
religious groups within the DPRK.
The inquiry concluded that there is systemic oppression of religious freedom within the DPRK and
that Christians in particular are targeted by the regime and subjected to crimes against humanity.
Furthermore, the visible changes in policy in the 1970s‐1990s, which could be developed, did not
point to an overall relaxation of pressure on religious groups in the DPRK. Therefore, there is need
for accountability and referral to the International Criminal Court. However, the inquiry unanimously
agreed that accountability in itself was not enough. Therefore, the push for an ICC referral must also
be coupled with long‐term, strategic engagement with the DPRK – ranging from informal tribunals to
fact‐finding missions, educational and cultural exchanges, breaking of the information blockade,
persistent critical engagement on human rights, the re‐instigation of The Six Party Talks, and the
development of “off the tracks” approaches, especially be investing in the diaspora of around 30,000
North Korean escapees now living outside the DPRK. Foremost, it is vital that we maintain
momentum and public pressure on the DPRK so that it can no longer perpetrate such abuses with
Conclusion and Recommendations
The inquiry concluded that the DPRK systemically oppresses freedom of religion or belief and that
Christians in particular are targeted by the regime and subjected to chronic human rights abuses,
amounting to crimes against humanity. Although there were some visible changes in policy in the
1970s‐1990s, which could be further developed, this did not point to an overall relaxation of pressure
on religious groups in the DPRK. Therefore, there is need for accountability. However, the inquiry
unanimously agreed that accountability in itself was not enough, as any chosen route of
accountability must also be coupled with long‐term, strategic engagement with the DPRK. Only then
will there be transition of the society away from one in which systemic abuses of human rights take
place as a matter of course and to one where human rights, including the fundamental right to
freedom of religion or belief, are protected and upheld. The inquiry recommends that the UK:
‐ Pursue the UN Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation of referral to the International
‐ Pursue all other recommendations made by the UN Commission of Inquiry;
‐ The UK Government re‐assesses its own “soft power” approach in North Korea and places
more emphasis on developing and supporting the diaspora of escapees, developing and
forming tomorrow’s new leaders.
‐ Thoroughly consider and instigate appropriate alternative justice mechanisms to compliment
the International Criminal Court process;
‐ Proactively support the re‐instigation of the Six Party Talks and all other engagement with
‐ Ensure that all discussions on the DPRK at the UN and the EU include human rights and
especially the “orphaned right” of freedom of religion and belief: Article 18.
‐ Continue to critically engage with the DPRK bilaterally on human rights with the UK’s
Ambassador in Pyongyang elevating religious freedom to a high priority;
‐ Financially and administratively invest in the study of students from the DPRK in the UK,
including providing solutions to insurmountable visa requirements;
‐ Invest in cultural exchanges with the DPRK and in the DPRK diaspora, especially those living
in the UK, to equip them to be agents for change in their country;
‐ Urge the BBC World Service to establish a radio broadcast to the Korean Peninsula, in both
Korean and English languages;
‐ Pursue creative ways of breaking the information blockade, for example through the use of
DVDs, mobile phones and USBs;
‐ Fund or otherwise facilitate further research into the human rights situation in the DPRK,
especially on the possibility that genocide has been perpetrated against Christians;
‐ Increase dialogue with China, encouraging them to end their policies of forcible repatriation
and to abide by the principle of non‐refoulement;
‐ Provide humanitarian assistance to the people of the DPRK, while insisting on satisfactory
levels of independent monitoring.
A New Day Will Dawn
Lee Hee‐ho, a Methodist, who would become the first lady of the Republic of Korea, described how
her Catholic husband, Kim Dae Jung, endured years of imprionment, torture, assasination attempts
and persecution, culminating in the overthrow of brutal military dictarorship and his election as
President as: “truly an Orwellian world of illegal brutality – acting as if they would never have to
answer to history of God for their barbarity.”
She described the role of the churches in bringing about change and how supporters of democracy
were “Deprived of any clothing they were mercilessly pummelled with wooden bats, deprived of
sleep, and had water poured into their nostrils while hanging upside down like so much beef hanging
from hooks in the slaughter house. Listening to these stories of horror, my body shuddered with
indescribable indignation and sorrow.” Kim Dae Jung said “The intention was to make me go insane. I
could hear someone moaning in a room next to me. I was stripped naked and forced to wear wornout
military fatigues. I was threatened with torture.”
In considering the testimonies given to our Inquiry we were struck that Christians and others in the
DPRK are today enduring what Christians and others once experienced in the South – but that
through their suffering, a new day has dawned.
December 11th – Evidence Given at Westminster on the Plight of Disabled People in north Korea: Testimony of a Disabled North Korean Escapee
Also visit the web site of the All Party Parliamentary group on North Korea: http://appgnk.org/
Chilling testimony of the evils of North Korea’s regime
Also visit the web site of the All Party Parliamentary group on North Korea: http://appgnk.org/
A United Nations Commission of Inquiry has called for the leaders of North Korea to be
prosecuted at The Hague for crimes against humanity. Lord Alton of Liverpool has
chaired a parliamentary committee on North Korea for 10 years. The COI report
underlines and corroborates the witness statements about unspeakable cruelty that Lord
Alton’s committee has heard. This report may be the catalyst for global action to force
change in North Korea.His reaction follows details of two forthcoming meetings at Westminster, where you…
View original 10,815 more words
December 19th article for Huffington Post – Committee Stage of the Modern Slavery Bill – Amendments to Create a Fund from the Seized Assets of Traffickers – to help victims, charities and law enforcement agencies, – Amendments on Domestic Workers Visas, Gangmasters, Supply Chain Transparency
Huffington Post December 19th 2014
Stocking Up for Christmas: Tackling Slavery in Our Supply Chains
Posted: 19/12/2014 18:23 GMT Updated: 19/12/2014 18:59 GMT
As usual, the approach to Christmas is marked by many challenging and contradictory messages vying for our attention.
There’s the oldest message that seeks to remind us of the origins of Christmas, emphasising peace and goodwill.
Then there’s the message from retailers who every year move the starting blocks further forward to gain an advantage over their competitors.
Another insists that Christmas should emphasise sharing, through the giving and receiving of presents.
The reality of “Christmas present” is that many of our gifts will have been produced by people in other countries. What is less well known and deeply shocking is that some of these people are victims of modern slavery. This practice that we hoped had been consigned to “Christmas past” is very much alive today.
Anti-trafficking group Walk Free has just released a frightening estimate that there are more than 35 million victims of the slavery worldwide – including those in forced labour.
There are numerous examples illustrating the global nature of the problem. The US Department of State calculates that more than 109,000 children in the Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry work under the worst forms of child labour.
Anti-Slavery International’s research has uncovered the routine use of forced labour of girls and young women in the spinning mills and garment factories of five Indian clothing manufacturers, previously linked to major Western clothing brands.
Earlier this year, a Guardian investigation revealed how workers in Thailand are subject to appalling violence in the supply chains of seafood products sold by major US, British and other European retailers.
This country is not immune; the Home Office estimates that up to 13,000 people are victims of forced labour in the UK alone.
The Modern Slavery Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. Peers from all parties have been working with civil society, business and investor groups to ensure that the Bill includes effective measures to tackle slavery in the supply chains of large companies in the UK.
At Committee Stage we tabled an amendment to achieve this and to build on the Government’s welcome acceptance of the principle. Our amendment includes specific requirements for all big companies operating in the UK to report on what they are doing to tackle slavery within their supply chains.
In the New Year when Parliament resumes we will continue to maintain the pressure on Government to include the right details in the Bill so that when we prepare for “Christmas future”, we can make informed decisions about our purchases in the knowledge that we are not contributing to modern slavery and forced labour here and around the world.
The Committee Stage of the Modern Slavery Bill: December 1st 2014
Creating a Provision for the Protection of Children on the Face of the Bill
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): Before the noble Baroness goes any further, I wish to reinforce the point that she made. She referred to the work that she has done with the Metropolitan Police. I suspect that she will have seen the debate in another place that took place on 4 September. I will cite the quotation given during that debate from a chief inspector of the Metropolitan Police who pointed out the flaws of the current proposals from a prosecution perspective. These were his words:
“If I was reading this from a lay perspective, I would not read into this Bill that a child begging, or using children to obtain fraud which is to their detriment, or putting a child out on the street to steal for sometimes 12 to 18 hours a day is trafficking and exploitation”.
Is that not the main thrust of the argument of the noble Baroness and why, between now and Report, we need to take very seriously the amendment that she has moved?
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1154
Baroness Doocey: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for that interjection, which is very timely and demonstrates clearly the points I am trying to make.
Providing Protection for Domestic Migrant workers
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I would very much like to support my noble friend Lord Hylton, and I follow the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in his support for Amendments 28 and 95. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has rightly reminded us that when we get to Amendment 94 there will be a chance to have a wider debate about the whole question of the overseas domestic worker visa.
Many of us would say that the subject of denying someone the right to go to an employment tribunal—that is what my noble friend’s Amendment 28 specifically deals with—is a sort of curtain-raiser to the debate that will come later. Enabling migrant domestic workers to change employer, to apply to renew their visa annually if in full-time employment, and to have the right to go to an employment tribunal, would be a significant step towards preventing abuses against migrant domestic workers, including forced labour for their employers, and would enable them to seek redress without fearing deportation from the United Kingdom.
My noble friend Lord Hylton has a long and honourable record of raising this question for all the years that I have been in your Lordships’ House, so it comes as no surprise to me that he has tabled these
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1179
amendments. He is not, of course, alone in raising this question. Amnesty International UK, the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, Human Rights Watch, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, Kalayaan and Liberty are among those who support moves in this direction.
Evidence since the introduction of the tied ODW visa in 2012 demonstrates how the current tied visa system facilitates the abuse of migrant domestic workers in the UK and therefore undermines the objectives of this timely and very welcome Bill and the Government’s efforts to fight modern slavery. Because of its deleterious effects, the 2012 decision, whether it was made wittingly or otherwise, is something we need to return to in the course of our deliberations, to see what we can do about it.
The Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill identified the 2012 policy as having,
“unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery”,
“Tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse”.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights reported that it,
“regards the removal of the right of an Overseas Domestic Worker to change employer as a backward step in the protection of migrant domestic workers, particularly as the pre-2012 regime had been cited internationally as good practice, and recommends that the Bill be amended to reverse the relevant changes to the Immigration Rules and to reinstate the pre-2012 protections in the Bill”.
We have heard a great deal already today about the importance of having what my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss described earlier as flagship legislation. I know that it is the Government’s wish that this should be seen as an international gold standard piece of legislation that others will be able to imitate, and that they hope it would be capable of implementation worldwide. But that is in doubt unless we put right this defect that was incorporated into our legislation. I recognise that it may not be possible to do that today, but I hope that when the noble Baroness replies to the debate she will indicate to my noble friend that we will continue to discuss this issue to see what we can do to remedy something that was done in 2012 and has, wittingly or unwittingly, brought about these consequences. One of those consequences is, as is highlighted in Amendment 28, that people are prevented from having access to employment tribunals.
Using the Proceeds of Crime to Create a Fund to Support Victims of Trafficking, the Agencies which work to Protect Victims and to fund the work of the Police and others working to deter and prosecute those responsible for Trafficking
Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool
32: After Clause 7, insert the following new Clause—
“Proceeds of crime: MSV Fund
(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations establish the Modern Slavery Victims’ Fund (“MSV Fund”) to receive and distribute the proceeds referred to under subsection (2) which have been recovered under a confiscation order, where that order is made in respect of a person who has been convicted of an offence under section 1, 2 or 4.
(2) The MSV Fund shall receive no less than 50 per cent of any money recovered under a confiscation order.
(3) Subject to subsection (4), the proceeds referred to under subsection (2) shall be distributed by the MSV Fund as follows—
(a) 50 per cent of the proceeds shall be distributed as compensation to the person or persons identified as victims of slavery or victims of human trafficking;
(b) 25 per cent of the proceeds shall be distributed to the charities or other organisations listed in the regulations, which provide services, assistance, support and protection to victims of slavery and victims of human trafficking; and
(c) 25 per cent of the proceeds shall be distributed to the organisations listed in the regulations, whose purpose is to prevent slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour or to help to investigate or prosecute people who commit offences under this Act.
(4) For the purposes of any distribution under subsection (3)—
(a) for victims of slavery or victims of human trafficking under paragraph (a), the monies paid—
(i) shall be distributed equally between those persons who have been directly identified as the victims of slavery or victims of human trafficking to whom the conviction referred to under subsection (1) relates; and
(ii) shall not be reduced or diminished by reference to any other compensation that such person or persons may receive from other sources,
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1213
(b) for the charities and organisations referred to in paragraphs (b) and (c), the monies paid shall be distributed equally between those charities and organisations.
(5) The regulations referred to in subsection (1) shall provide rules determining the composition, management and financial accountability of the MSV Fund together with such other provisions that the Secretary of State may consider necessary for the exercise of its functions.
(6) The Secretary of State must appoint the Commissioner as a member of the management board of the MSV Fund.
(7) Before making any regulations under this section the Secretary of State shall consult such persons as he thinks fit.
(8) Regulations under this section shall not be made unless a draft of them has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(9) In this section—
“the Assets Recovery Agency” means the Agency referred to in section 1 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002;
“the Commissioner” means the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner appointed under section 40;
“confiscation order” means a confiscation order under section 6 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, Amendment 32 stands in my name and that of my noble friends Lady Cox, of Queensbury, and Lord Hylton. I thank them for their support for the amendment. I also thank the Public Bill Office of your Lordships’ House, which gave me a lot of help with the drafting of the amendment. The purpose of the amendment is to give the Secretary of State power by regulation to,
“establish the Modern Slavery Victims’ Fund (“MSV Fund”) to receive and distribute the proceeds referred to under subsection (2) which have been recovered under a confiscation order, where that order is made in respect of a person who has been convicted of an offence under section 1, 2 or 4”.
If the amendment were to be incorporated in the legislation, it would enable the MSV fund to receive,
“no less than 50 per cent of any money recovered under a confiscation order. Subject to subsection (4), the proceeds referred to under subsection (2)”,
would then be distributed by the fund, with 50% of the proceeds given as compensation to victims, 25% distributed to the charities and other organisations listed in the regulations, and 25% distributed to the organisations whose purpose is to prevent slavery. I would have in mind, obviously, the police, but also others such as the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner.
Modern slavery is very profitable. The International Labour Organization estimates annual profits from slavery to be around $150 billion a year. For example, a child trafficked and forced to pickpocket on the streets of London can, according to Anti-Slavery International, bring traffickers yields of £5,000 to £10,000 every month. Modern slavery is a high-profit, low-risk crime. Most of those involved escape justice and, even where there is a conviction, asset seizure is often considered too late in the process so the perpetrator has had a chance to move their assets elsewhere. Even where confiscation is made as part of the criminal proceedings, compensation is very rarely ordered.
The amendment would address this by bringing confiscation of assets and compensation to the very heart of the Bill and, in doing this, it would be similar to the United States anti-trafficking legislation. Confiscation has the effect of hitting the perpetrators where it hurts and its deterrent effect is potentially
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1214
more significant than the threat of a long prison sentence, which can easily be avoided by entering a plea bargain. As the average prison sentence for modern slavery offences has been relatively low— around five and a half years—unless the perpetrator is stripped of their assets they can come out of prison and enjoy a luxurious life, while victims continue to suffer.
Restorative justice is also a function of compensation for victims and is the key to this amendment. By awarding damages to the victim, their suffering is acknowledged in a way that convicting the perpetrator rarely achieves. Victims who act as witnesses are of course often re-traumatized in the process. Furthermore, compensation gives victims stability and a chance to rebuild their lives. For example, one victim who was compensated has invested the compensation to pay for university education and is now pursuing a law degree.
I first raised the possibility of using confiscated assets to help victims and deter traffickers in 2002, during the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Bill. I argued that there were simply insufficient resources to adequately address a crime which, too often, was out of sight and out of mind. Yet even then, the United Nations had identified people trafficking as the fastest growing facet of organised crime and the third largest source of profit for organised crime, after the trafficking of drugs and firearms. At the time, the Government admitted:
“At present there is no specific offence of trafficking in human beings and so no data exist about the confiscation of assets of those engaged in this practice”.—[Official Report, 18/6/02; col. WA 70.]
My 2002 amendment called for the proceeds of trafficking to be channelled into the support of victims and the resourcing of a strategy to tackle this scourge at source. Supporting the amendments then and the use of confiscated assets to hit the traffickers where it hurts, the late Lord Wilberforce, a Law Lord and a descendant of William Wilberforce, described trafficking as,
“a pervasive crime committed in all kinds of areas by all kinds of people. It must be dealt with by a great variety of authorities”—
I repeat, a great variety of authorities—
“and police forces all over the country, many of which have no idea of the nature of the crime or the remedies available to deal with it”.—[
, 25/6/02; col. 1225.]
Since 2002, the Government have been persuaded to develop the principle of confiscating assets which have been accumulated through the pursuit of crime. I strongly welcome this but it would help this debate if the Minister could describe what has been the experience of the Proceeds of Crime Act to date. It has been suggested that there may already be as much as £2 billion in uncollected POCA fines, so whether or not there is a dedicated dispersal fund, as the amendment would require, it would be helpful to know how the Government intend to improve the collection rate and what their estimate is of the sums currently outstanding.
Addressing Pope Francis at a Vatican conference on human trafficking held in April this year in Rome the Home Secretary, the right honourable Theresa May MP, said:
“Our efforts must also focus on going after the profits of those involved, and compensating victims with seized assets”.
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1215
The Bill itself recognises that the first call on seized assets should be to provide reparation to the victims of the modern slavery offence. Where there are seized funds left over, the Government say that they will benefit criminal justice agencies through the existing asset recovery incentivisation scheme. ARIS has the objective of providing all operational partners who use the asset recovery powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 with incentives to pursue asset recovery as a contribution to the overall objective of reducing crime and delivering justice. It is not, however, specifically targeted at tackling human trafficking and modern slavery. However, that scheme is not on a statutory footing, although some of the moneys distributed under ARIS are used to fund improvements in asset recovery capabilities and on community projects, and I welcome that. This amendment would create a statutory scheme.
Around £80 million was returned to operational partners from ARIS in 2013-14. The Minister might like to say how much of that money is used specifically to deter and bring to justice the perpetrators of modern slavery. I would also be grateful if he would quantify what he believes will be necessary to fund this ambitious legislation, otherwise it risks becoming yet another declamatory law which sounds good but can make little difference. Will he say how much money will be set aside to support this legislation? We all recall the Climate Change Act 2008, which imposed what was called a “legally binding obligation” for reduction of 80% of greenhouse gas by 2050. It was never made clear how it was to be done, who was to be held to account if this target was not realised and what punishments there would be.
The Child Poverty Act 2010 was not much better, requiring the elimination of child poverty by 2020. If the Bill is not to be added to the list of declamatory legislation which has inadequate resources attached to it to ensure its enforcement, we need to insist on ways of providing adequate resources. Although the Minister says that the Government are unconvinced about the need to ring-fence these assets for this dedicated use, he has indicated his willingness to discuss the amendment and said, in a letter to me:
“There is a great deal of common ground between us on the principles of how seized assets should be used, in terms of using the funds raised to compensate victims and support law enforcement agencies”.
I welcome that greatly.
The Government tend to suggest that the police is the agency which needs to be funded to bring perpetrators to justice. Of course, there is a lot in that argument. However, as the late Lord Wilberforce recognised, a great variety of authorities need to be involved and many, along with the police, are completely underresourced. At Second Reading, I highlighted the position of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, established in 2006 in the aftermath of the tragic death of 23 Chinese cockle-pickers who died in Morecambe Bay, part of a criminal racket exploiting workers all over England, and estimated to funnel £1 million per day back to China.
In 2013, Professor Gary Craig of Durham University, working with the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation and the Joseph Rowntree
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1216
Forced Labour in the United Kingdom
, a report which specifically said that the GLA was insufficiently resourced. The report found that:
“The scope of the GLA should be extended to cover all sectors using labour providers and greater resources should be available for the GLA to be able to fulfil its role effectively”.
The three-year study draws on data from legal, policy and regulatory bodies and calls for the Government to reconsider some key policies and take a broader view of the problem. The report also found that:
“Monitoring for severe labour exploitation is generally weak and needs to be strengthened”.
Professor Craig, who is professor of community development and social justice, says that workplace enforcement agencies are now doing fewer inspections, becoming focused on only the most serious offences rather than tackling all types of serious labour exploitation. Commenting on the scale of the problem he says:
“Criminal activity of this nature is difficult to monitor, but conservative estimates are that there are currently at least several thousand cases of forced labour in the UK and 880,000 across the European Union”,
and that those trafficked for labour exploitation would soon exceed those trafficked for sexual exploitation.
I turn to the need for public education, something which many noble Lords have raised today and which the Government acknowledge the need for. No one has said how that would be resourced. Professor Craig remarks that there is a “real problem” getting people to acknowledge not only that slavery exists in the UK, but that, as his research suggests, there may be upwards of 10,000 people at any one time in conditions which we would class as modern slavery. I noticed over the weekend that the BBC added another 3,000 to that number.
In addition to recommending the extension of the mandate of the GLA, providing powers of arrest and investigation, Professor Craig argues that the GLA should be able to keep fines to fund its work, adding that the resources directed to the GLA are totally inadequate. If the dedicated fund specified in the amendment were created, it could be used to extend the mandate and work of the GLA and other agencies involved in this most serious of crimes. The Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has also said in an interview in the Sunday Times that the resources needed should be raised as a result of using the confiscated assets of funds that have been seized.
Sometimes Ministers, instructed by the Treasury, raise the old bogey that Governments do not support the use of hypothecated funds, and that revenues must be directed to the Treasury for subsequent allocation. That is manifestly not true, and even the Bill itself accepts the principle that some of the funds will be specifically used to address the challenge of modern slavery and human trafficking—the Home Secretary said so. There are plenty of precedents, from the fossil fuel levy to the levy on the pig industry to eradicate Aujeszky’s disease, that have created levies or funds to tackle specific hypothecated challenges. If we can hypothecate funds for pigs, surely we can do the same thing for humans.
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1217
To reiterate and conclude: the amendment takes a moderate, incremental approach. The fund would receive no less than 50% of any money recovered under a confiscation order; 50% of the proceeds would then be used to support the victims, 25% distributed to those charities and agencies combating slavery and 25% to those organisations preventing, investigating or prosecuting those responsible. Under the terms of the amendment, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner would serve on the management board of the fund, which itself would be established by the Home Secretary by regulation.
I accept that there may be better formulae to determine the shape of the fund and its administration, and the amendment is not designed to be definitive. It is an attempt to create a scaffold to ensure that adequate resources are made available to fund what the Government described as world-class legislation, and to force those who have profited from this evil to pay for measures to combat it, to support victims and to bring the perpetrators to justice. I beg to move.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: I am grateful to the Minister. As a young Member of another place, I was once given the quite good advice always to beware Ministers
1 Dec 2014 : Column 1223
when they are promising reviews, but in this case the Minister has said that the review is already under way. I am very grateful to him for saying that. He says that it is going to report in December. Will that be in time for us to be able to come back on Report acting on the outcome of the review? What is his estimate of the timetable?
Lord Bates: In the matter of the timetable and in many other matters I am grateful to have the Chief Whip, my noble friend Lord Taylor, on the Bench beside me. He has signalled his assent to the suggestion that this may be something where the report will be published, in all likelihood, before Report. Therefore, there will be an opportunity to revisit it then.
I should also say, as I have found the note, that the current distribution of the scheme provides that 50% of the proceeds go to the Home Office; 18.75% to investigation agencies; 18.75% to prosecution agencies; and 12.5% to HM Courts and Tribunal Service, which enforces the orders. That is the current distribution. I hope that is helpful.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: The noble Lord has been incredibly helpful to the Committee. It is very late and I do not intend to detain the Committee for long now. I simply want to thank my noble and learned friend, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for putting his argument so effectively. He is right that we have to generate the funds in the first place to provide the pots in order to do the things that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord Hylton all recognise need to be done. Indeed, the Minister himself has recognised that the principle behind this is not a bad one and is worth looking at further. He has engaged with the arguments in his usual courteous and characteristically helpful way. I am extremely grateful to him at this stage. We will see what the review holds and will keep open the possibility of coming back on Report if his noble friend is able to timetable events to ensure that the chronology works out that way. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.
Amendment 32 withdrawn.
December 10th 2014.
Domestic Migrant Workers
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, with her customary clarity, passion and eloquence, my noble friend Lady Cox has set out the arguments for Amendment 94, to which I am a signatory and which other noble Lords support, too. I was very struck in the representations we received about this amendment by what was said by the Trades Union Congress. It supported the recommendations of the Joint Committee and particularly highlighted paragraphs 224, 225 and 227, to which I shall come in a moment.
Before referring to those paragraphs in detail I will simply make the point that a reinstatement of the position that my noble friend has described, the pre-2012 position, is what we should look towards; the one that was originally enacted in 1988, with very good reason. Her amendment also concentrates our mind towards those who are in domestic service attached to diplomats. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Sandwich and others during the course of these proceedings and during other debates about the particular circumstances that such workers often find themselves in.
Returning to the Joint Committee, it is worth the Government looking again at what the Joint Committee had to say. In paragraph 224, it said:
“The difficulties faced by this group of workers appear to have been compounded by changes made to Immigration Rules in 2012 which had the net effect of removing their right to change employer, and thus denying them one means of removal from an abusive situation”.
In paragraph 225, it said:
“Evidence we received challenges the assumption that such mechanisms provide adequate protection … Tying migrant domestic workers to their employer institutionalises their abuse; it is slavery and is therefore incongruous with our aim to act decisively to protect the victims of modern slavery”.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1858
Paragraph 227 states:
“We recommend the Home Office reverse the changes to the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa. This would at the very least allow organisations and agencies to remove a worker from an abusive employment situation immediately. It would also enable the abuse to be reported to the police without fear that the victim would be deported as a result. This in turn would facilitate the prosecution of modern slavery offences”.
I do not think one can do better than to rehearse those arguments from the Joint Committee because it clearly looked at this issue in some detail and everything that is in my noble friend’s amendment would give statutory provision to what it said.
I was also struck by my noble friend’s comment about what happened in another place. David Hanson MP moved an amendment similar to the amendment moved by my noble friend. As she said, it was narrowly defeated in Committee on a Division only after the chair added his vote to the no votes—so opinion in another place is clearly divided. That is another good reason why we should revisit this issue.
Sadly, the Government have so far declined to accept the Joint Committee’s recommendations and have claimed that existing and planned measures will be sufficient to protect migrant domestic workers. They have put significant emphasis on the fact that theoretically all overseas domestic workers have the protection of UK employment law while working in the UK. While in theory that may be so, and in theory they can take a case against an employer to an employment tribunal, in reality and in practice that right is denied to domestic workers on a tied visa. In addition to barriers, such as cuts to legal aid, which we have already referred to, if they want to avoid breaching the Immigration Rules, tied domestic workers must take a case against their employer while remaining in that employer’s home. It is totally unrealistic for these workers to take any kind of legal action against an employer who has potentially trafficked them, exploited them and denied them their most basic rights while still living with their home.
The noble Baroness referred to the charity Kalayaan. It told me that of the 120 domestic workers that it had registered on the tied visa system in the two years since the April 2012 changes, fewer than five had taken an employment case and none had gone to a tribunal. Domestic workers often report to organisations such as Kalayaan that their employers confiscate their mobile phones or refuse them permission to make calls during working hours, which can be excessively long, thereby ensuring that they cannot access services such as ACAS.
I asked for an example to illustrate the situation, and I will briefly mention it. It is a case study of a young woman called Nerita. She was brought to the UK by her employer to work in their private household. She explained that she came from a poor family in south India and her husband, children and elderly parents are dependent on her remittances for their support. This is a very important point. If someone is dependent on the money that you are sending them, that plays into all the emotional arguments and the blackmail that can be used against people in that situation.
An agency found Nerita work with a family who lived in the Middle East. She described having to borrow the agency fee from various relatives. It took
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1859
over a year to save the money on her meagre salary to repay the loan. She accompanied her employer to this country in 2014. Her conditions of employment changed little when she came to the UK. She worked seven days a week from 7 am until midnight. She was not permitted to leave the employer’s home unaccompanied. Her passport was taken from her when she started working for them and was never returned to her. She slept on a small mattress in the children’s room. Her salary was the equivalent of £150 a month while she was in the Middle East, but she was not paid at all during her time in the UK.
She described being regularly verbally abused by her employer. She was told that she should not speak because she was a servant. The employer also threatened to send Nerita back to India. Nerita speaks very little English and was not aware of the terms and conditions of her visa. Her family’s situation in India is desperate and she was distressed to learn that as she had come to the UK on a tied visa she could work only with the employer who brought to the UK—and then only for a maximum of six months. When she asked for Kalayaan’s support in getting her passport back, it had to explain that involving the police—the point referred to a few moments ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—would almost certainly result in her being detained and her passport being confiscated until she left the UK. Kalayaan has spoken to Nerita about referral to the national referral mechanism, which we discussed earlier on, as a victim of trafficking. However, that would provide only short-term support for this very vulnerable woman. As she came to the UK on the tied overseas domestic worker visa, she will not get the justice she deserves. That is why we should support Amendment 94 in the name of my noble friend.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I support noble Lords who have spoken in favour of these amendments, moved and spoken to so ably by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.
At Second Reading, and indeed in the debate on my Amendment 32 about the proceeds of crime and creating a victims’ fund that could be used to resource the authorities that are involved in trying to police trafficking, I referred to the tragedy that occurred in Morecambe Bay, which led to the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in helping to create this authority. Noble Lords will remember that 23 Chinese men and women drowned in Morecambe Bay, having been taken there by gangmasters in order to go cockle-picking. A local fisherman, Harold Benson, said at the time that what happened was,
“not only awful beyond words—it was absolutely avoidable”.
However, the lessons of Morecambe Bay have not been fully learnt. As we consider this legislation, which provides us with the only vehicle to tackle these kinds of issues—it is timely, it is good legislation and it is an opportunity—the question for the House is: is there more that needs to be done? At Second Reading, I referred to academic work that has been done at the University of Durham, which identified not only the need to extend the mandate of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority but the need for more resources. In 2011, 30 miles away from Morecambe Bay, in the River Ribble—not far from where I live—17 cockle-pickers of eastern European origin had to be rescued when they were in precisely the same situation as those in Morecambe Bay. We have not overcome the problem. We have set up an authority to deal with it but we have not adequately resourced that authority or put sufficient powers into its hands.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1879
Indeed, when I looked at the figures, I was struck by the fact that only 37 people are employed by the authority and they have to cover the whole of Great Britain. Between 2011 and 2014 its budget was cut by some 17% and in 2013—I asked for the numbers of convictions—only seven people had been convicted. That does not fill me with great confidence that it is able to do the job that it was asked by Parliament to do. The authority is a wonderful creation. It has been given reasonable powers but they need to be extended. It certainly needs more resources.
This enabling provision, which my noble and learned friend referred to as being a modest amendment, would provide Ministers with the necessary belt and braces in the future to do more as and when the authority feels it wishes to. Not to put such a provision in the Bill will lead, as my noble and learned friend said, to the messiness of having to come back to Parliament. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, told us, it would require parliamentary time. That seems to be the wrong way to go about this. We have the opportunity here to put something into the legislation that would give the Government the ability to act, and it is an opportunity we should seize.
Supply Chain Transparency and Post Legislative Scrutiny
Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool
98: After Clause 51, insert the following new Clause—
“Slavery and human trafficking statements
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1893
(1) For each financial year, a commercial organisation within subsection (2) must prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement.
(2) A commercial organisation is within this subsection if it—
(a) supplies goods or services, and
(b) has a total turnover in respect of that financial year of not less than £60 million or such lesser amount as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2)(b) an organisation’s total turnover is to be determined—
(a) by reference to the activities of that organisation worldwide;
(b) by aggregating the worldwide turnover of that organisation with any other organisation which forms part of the same group undertaking; and
(c) otherwise in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(4) A slavery and human trafficking statement for a financial year is—
(a) a statement of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to identify and address slavery and human trafficking—and which complies with the minimum requirements set out in subsection (5); or
(i) in any of its supply chains, and
(ii) in any part of its own business,
and which complies with the minimum requirements set out in subsection (5); or
(b) a statement that the organisation has taken no such steps with an explanation of why the organisation considers such conduct to be appropriate.
(5) A slavery and human trafficking statement shall give details of—
(a) actions taken to assess the risk of the presence of slavery and human trafficking in the organisation’s operations and throughout its supply chains;
(b) who has been involved in the assessment of such risks and the extent to which such persons are independent of the organisation;
(c) what risks have been identified, and what action has been taken to mitigate any risks which have been identified;
(d) whether any slavery or human trafficking has been identified and, if so, what steps have been taken to address it, including action to support victims;
(e) the extent to which information for assessment and monitoring has been gathered directly at suppliers’ sites and whether such information has been verified by independent persons; and
(f) any such other matters that may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State under this section.
(6) The organisation must publish the slavery and human trafficking statement in each of the following ways—
(a) if the organisation has a website, it must—
(i) publish the slavery and human trafficking statement on that website, and
(ii) include a link to the slavery and human trafficking statement in a prominent place on that website’s homepage;
(b) upload the slavery and human trafficking statement report to the website maintained for that purpose by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under subsection (8);
(c) an organisation which is obliged to prepare a director’s report in accordance with section 415 of the Companies Act 2006 shall include in that report—
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1894
(i) the name of any director who has taken responsibility for slavery and human trafficking issues within the organisation (or a statement that no director has taken responsibility),
(ii) a fair summary of the slave and human trafficking statement, and
(iii) the web address where a copy of the report may be found, or if the company does not have a website a statement that a copy of the report will be provided on written request.
(7) If the organisation does not have a website, it must provide a copy of the slavery and human trafficking statement to anyone who makes a written request for one and must do so before the end of the period of 30 days beginning with the day on which the request is received.
(8) The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills shall maintain a website—
(a) on which it shall publish slavery and human trafficking statements which are uploaded to the website or delivered to it under subsection (6)(b);
(b) in a form in which the published data is freely searchable by the public.
(9) The Secretary of State—
(a) may issue guidance about the duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section; and
(b) must publish any such guidance.
(10) Evidence under subsection (9) may in particular set out the kind of information in addition or supplemental to that set out in subsection (5) which may be included in a slavery and human trafficking statement.
(11) The duties imposed on commercial organisations by this section are enforceable by any of the Secretary of State, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Financial Reporting Council; or such other person as may be specified by way of regulation, any of whom may bring civil proceedings in the High Court for an injunction or, in Scotland, for specific performance of a statutory duty under section 45 of the Court of Session Act 1988.
(12) Where a commercial organisation is in breach of any duty under this section the commercial organisation and every director, partner, or other person occupying an equivalent position shall have committed an offence.
(13) It is a defence for any person charged with an offence under subsection (12) to prove that he took all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with this section.
(14) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (12) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum and on conviction on indictment to a fine.
(15) This section shall be reviewed by the Secretary of State 3 years after the section comes into force and following this review the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a report assessing the effectiveness of the section and recommending whether any amendments should be made.
(16) For the purposes of this section—
“commercial organisation” means—
(a) a body corporate (wherever incorporated) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom, or
(b) a partnership (wherever formed) which carries on a business, or part of a business, in any part of the United Kingdom,
and for this purpose “business” includes a trade or profession;
“group undertaking” shall have the meaning set out in section 1162 of the Companies Act 2006;
(a) a partnership within the Partnership Act 1890,
(b) a limited partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907, or
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1895
(c) a firm, or an entity of a similar character, formed under the law of a country outside the United Kingdom;
“slavery and human trafficking” means—
(a) conduct which constitutes an offence under any of the following—(a) section 1, 2 or 4 of this Act, (b) section 57, 58, 58A or 59 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (trafficking for sexual exploitation), (c) section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 (traffic in prostitution etc), (d) section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (trafficking for exploitation), (e) section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour), (f) section 47 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour), or
(b) conduct which would constitute an offence in a part of the United Kingdom under any of those provisions if the conduct took place in that part of the United Kingdom;
“supply chain” means those raw materials, purchases, processes, products, labour, services and transportation by means of which the company’s goods and services whether or not for sale to customers are acquired, manufactured, assembled or otherwise produced from their original source up to and including their sale or provision to the company’s customers;
but a company’s supply chain shall not include those products and services that are acquired, rented, leased or otherwise used by a company for a purpose which is incidental or ancillary to the matters referred to in the definition of supply chain above.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said, this is the second of three amendments that consider supply chains. It is an issue that I flagged up at Second Reading. The amendment emerged from a meeting which I chaired in this building with many of the charities and non-governmental organisations involved in this question. I particularly thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Mobarik, and my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth, who are all signatories to the amendment. I also thank those Members of your Lordships’ House, some of whom are here this evening, who signed a letter to the Timeslast Saturday supporting the arguments outlined in the amendment—about 20 Members from all sides. On the same day, the Daily Telegraph published a letter signed by 19 of the leading charities and non-governmental organisations, also supporting the proposal.
Inevitably, we want in the amendment to take the opportunity, while legislation is before your Lordships’ House, to tackle the problem, not to leave it, as the Minister said, to a consultation and review process, which can seem like the long grass. The Government have every reason to be very proud of the Bill. I welcome the fact that they introduced Clause 51—Part 6—at a late stage in another place, but clearly it was not subject to all of the same pre-legislative scrutiny that everything else in the Bill received. There was some, but not much, and it was not considered in Committee in another place. Therefore, we have a particular duty, while these issues are before your Lordships’ House, to spend some time on them. There are 16 subsections in the amendment, so I hope that the patience of your Lordships’ House, even at this late stage in our deliberations on the Bill, will not be too exhausted as I try to describe why so many Members and organisations outside the House feel that they are
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1896
necessary. All the signatories of both letters I have mentioned welcome the inclusion of a new requirement for business to report on slavery and forced labour in their supply chains, but the provision must be strengthened if it is to drive real change in company supply chains.
Part 6, and this amendment, should be read in the context of the International Labour Organization’s estimate that around 21 million men, women and children around the world are in a form of slavery, estimated to generate a profit of $150 billion every single year. Part 6 rightly recognises that we all have a responsibility—a point alluded to by the Minister in the earlier group of amendments—to encourage businesses to look deep into their supply chains to investigate the practices of their suppliers and subsidiaries and to then take action. That is why the Government have repeatedly emphasised that compliance with the transparency and supply chain measures will be driven by consumers, investors and campaigners.
As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said on the previous group of amendments, there is a temptation here simply to hope that it will be all right on the night. These amendments seek to provide real strength in putting into practice the sentiments which have been expressed by the Government. As currently drafted, neither the content of what is reported on, nor the location of the report are likely to produce the meaningful, accessible and comparable information that is so essential to take a proper view on how companies are tackling the risk of slavery in their supply chains. As it stands, the provisions will encourage superficial reporting, which is why the Ethical Trading Initiative, to which the Minister referred, the British Retail Consortium and many investors are demanding more specificity. Simply relying on follow-up guidance to fill gaps in the legislation is a doomed strategy, as only the leading companies are likely to pay heed to the guidance.
At present, there is no requirement on businesses to publicise what action they have taken to ensure that their supply and product chains are free from slavery. While some businesses are already taking positive action to address this issue, many clearly are not. I remind your Lordships that in 2013 a factory building collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,130 workers at one site, highlighting the life-threatening conditions faced by garment supply chain workers in low-cost sourcing countries. It is just one example of the gap between industry codes and the real situation on the ground. My noble friend Lord Hylton reminded your Lordships of other examples, such as kiln workers making bricks in inhuman conditions in Pakistan and children manufacturing matches in India. There is a growing public expectation that businesses should act ethically and take action to ensure that forced labour does not occur in their supply chains or business practices.
The Government’s own Modern Slavery Strategy recognises the importance of addressing slavery in supply chains. Paragraph 6.24 says that,
“if we want to ensure that the UK plays no part in perpetuating modern slavery we must ensure that consumers here are not unwittingly creating demand for modern slavery elsewhere”.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1897
Paragraph 6.25 says:
“This will take a concerted, collaborative effort by Government and business, within the right regulatory framework”—
not consultations or reviews, but the right regulatory framework—
“We will ensure that businesses investigate and report on modern slavery, and then help them to stamp it out”.
Paragraph 6.27 says that,
“we are committed to introducing measures that specifically address modern slavery. We will use the Modern Slavery Bill to introduce a legal duty on all businesses above a certain turnover threshold to disclose each year the steps they have taken to ensure that modern slavery does not take place in their business or supply chains anywhere in the world”.
The strategy is right and the Government have articulated the need; the question is, does the legislation do it? Clearly, there is a real need for measures to tackle modern slavery in company supply chains. This is amply demonstrated by abuses and exploitation of workers in such places as the cotton mills of Tamil Nadu in India. The mills in that region supply high-street retailers such as C&A, Mothercare and Primark. The Flawed Fabrics report, published by the SOMO Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations and the India Committee of the Netherlands in October, details many examples of forced labour abuses.
I suspect that my noble and right reverend friend, if he is able to speak a little later, will probably mention the situation he has regularly raised about the Dalits in India and say how many of those in the untouchable caste are doubly exploited because of the way in which they are used as forced labour and become part of these supply chains. That can include physical confinement in the work location, psychological compulsion and false promises about types and terms of work. The SOMO report also details trafficking abuses such as recruitment by deceit and by abuse of vulnerability, exploitative working conditions, coercion and abuse of vulnerability in the workplace.
The report highlights the severe restrictions on freedom of movement. Women and girls are mostly forced to live in hostels within the factory grounds. Rooms are shared by up to 35 people and the facilities are very basic. Toilets and bathrooms are shared by 35 to 45 workers. A local NGO reports that during recruitment some families were even shown photographs of the swimming pools that workers would be able to use—needless to say, these swimming pools did not exist. In the face of such stories, the Bill, as drafted, would not be effective, for the following reasons.
First, there is insufficient content in the Bill to deliver on what the Government has promised and desires. Secondly, there is a real risk that the Bill will not result in this issue being given the attention it deserves at the top of a company’s decision-making hierarchy. The reality is that slavery and forced labour in supply chains will need to be on the agenda and priorities of boardrooms if real and lasting change is to be achieved: this is the desire of many companies. Thirdly, there is no effective mechanism by which the provision will be monitored and enforced. Fourthly, there is no penalty for non-compliance.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1898
We should study with care the example of California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010. There is a great deal that we could learn from it. Indeed, this amendment seeks to build on the experience in California. Let me spell out the amendment’s provisions. Subsection (2) specifies a £60 million worldwide receipts threshold. This provides a consistent approach with the size and international nature of companies covered by the California Act, and is a similar provision to that which applies to companies operating in that state. Companies have expressed a desire for parity with California around the threshold level here in the United Kingdom. It also recognises the reality that large companies have the resources to do the initial heavy lifting, as it were. This experience will then be shared across business sectors and, over time, have application in smaller companies. Effective legislation will swiftly work its way down the procurement and subcontracting chain.
Subsection (3) introduces the term “group undertaking”, which allows for a definable aggregation of turnover. Subsection (4) proposes a modification of the Government’s wording, bearing in mind the reality of current corporate reporting and accountability mechanisms. The amendment requires a statement setting out the steps the organisation has taken to identify and address slavery and human trafficking in any of its supply chains or parts of its own business. It is vital to have minimum disclosure measures in the Bill because of the lack of transparency in many of the organisations which the requirement is designed to cover. Significantly, it is the business world which is calling for these minimum measures. I suspect that we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on that specific point. The Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium, as I have already explained, support the principles that underpin this amendment. The amendment encourages companies to identify the process they have gone through in identifying and addressing slavery in their supply chains. Subsection (5)(f) provides flexibility and allows for further measures to be specified by order as required.
Subsection (6) addresses this by requiring companies to publish statements on their website and, crucially, to include within their directors’ report the name of the responsible director and a fair summary and the web address of the full statement. Subsection (6)(c) will help to propel responsibility for tackling slavery in supply chains into the boardroom, so that it is not just delegated to an employee charged with the remit of corporate social responsibility. Subsection (7) makes provision for organisations that do not have websites.
Subsection (8) proposes a centrally maintained website which will assist with monitoring of compliance and public accountability, with reduced costs to government through self-uploading of statements by companies. Subsection (11) is important and relates to enforcement of the requirement. As we heard during the debate on Amendments 67ZC and 68ZA, in the name of my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, there is a strong feeling that the commissioner should have an oversight and monitoring role in relation to supply chains. In fact, the commissioner-designate himself has already said as much, as reported in the Financial Times on 17 November. He said:
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1899
“Once they know they are being monitored … they will want to have clean supply chains … If they fail they will be exposed—and no company in the world wants to be shown as employing slaves”.
Last Sunday, 7 December, the Sunday Times reported that Nigerian boys are being lured to England with promises of riches from playing football in the Premier League but are being forced into slavery once they arrive. The commissioner-designate immediately said that he would travel to Nigeria to investigate the claim. The issue was raised by John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja, at an anti-trafficking conference in London hosted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It is clear that each of the specified organisations in Clause 11 may come across modern slavery issues, and it is important for there to be a direct enforcement route for any of them.
Clause 12 proposes a new criminal offence without which the measure would be completely toothless. Clause 15 provides for the requirement to produce slavery and trafficking statements to be reviewed three years after it comes into force, an issue that we will return to a little later in terms of post-legislative scrutiny. In Clause 16, there are a number of necessary definitions, most of which are existing government definitions. The definition of supply chains is new and would certainly benefit from discussion in your Lordships’ House.
Amendment 98 has the support of the business community. The Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium, which between them represent many of the companies that would be caught by the requirement, have published a briefing note on the Bill. At Second Reading, I mentioned the support of Rathbones, which holds £96 billion-worth of investments. It wants an amendment like this in the Bill because it says that it would better safeguard its investors and mean that it would be far easier to effectively enforce the sentiments in the Bill. In calling for the anti-slavery commissioner to be responsible for monitoring compliance with the reporting requirement, the legislation would set clear minimum criteria for reporting and specify the penalty for non-compliance, among other things.
The amendment also has the support of a wide coalition of civil society organisations that have been working on this issue and which include corporate accountability, fair trade, development and anti-slavery groups, as shown by their letter to the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. Finally, it also commands support from all sides of the House. I therefore hope that the Minister is able to listen to and reflect on this consensus, and that between now and Report there will be a chance to consider this part of the Bill further, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was pressing in an earlier group of amendments. I have already spoken to the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and we have agreed that we will bring back the coalition of groups which came into the first meeting here. I hope that that may be an opportunity for the Minister to meet them and hear their arguments. I beg to move.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has set out the case in his usual full and very effective way, and I rise to speak briefly to support the amendment.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1900
I begin by addressing something that the Minister said at the beginning about consumers having a role and a responsibility here. I absolutely agree. If we pose the question of how consumers will be best educated and alerted to the issues, the answer is that it is by a good law. A good law is not one which just sets out certain generalities, but one that has some bite to it, some detail. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, stated so effectively on the previous group of amendments, however welcome it is to have Clause 51, there should be some requirement for more detail on the transparency statements and it should be possible for the general public and NGOs to have easy access to all these statements so that they can compare one thing with another.
The Minister talked about the discussions and dialogues which are going to take place with business. That is absolutely right because business has to be drawn along with this and to be fully supportive of it. I think the businesses involved would find it helpful to have a little more bite about this clause before they begin to think about how best to put it into practice.
I have a particular concern in this area, as already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, as chair of the All-Party Group for Dalits because they suffer disproportionately in every aspect of trafficking and enslavement, particularly in this area of bonded labour and different kinds of exploitation. I very much hope that the Minister will feel able, after further consultation, to bring back a clause which has a little more bite to it. I think it would be warmly welcomed around the House. It may not require all the detail that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has, but perhaps the Minister could look at the amendment and the amendment put forward in the previous group by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about statements and see whether there are certain details that he would be able to take out and bring back to the House on Report.
Baroness McDonagh (Lab): I shall speak to Amendment 98A and support Amendment 98. I start by declaring an interest as patron of the Lily foundation, an anti sex-trafficking charity operating in India and the UK. Is it not absolutely fantastic that we are here on all sides of the Chamber to support a Bill that we all want to see enacted? That is a very unusual occurrence. In that spirit of unity, I am pleased that this amendment is being supported by me and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick.
Our concern is that this clause on supply chains will turn out to be warm words and good intentions. Indeed, when assemblies all around the world have sought to phrase legislation in these terms, they have rarely been able to meet their objectives. If the Bill cannot meet its objectives, what then? That is what this small enabling amendment covers. It would allow the Home Secretary to intervene and require extremely large companies to risk assess, create an action plan and audit. We think this is a very simple thing to do and would welcome a meeting with the Minister to discuss it further.
Let me be clear about the companies to which this amendment would apply. I understand that the Government would be concerned if it were to apply to
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1901
all companies. I understand that placing such a regulatory responsibility on SMEs would be extremely difficult. Indeed, our amendment would not even apply to large companies; it would apply to really large global entities, which are very specifically defined as companies with a turnover of £1 billion per annum. Not only that, there is a secondary locking qualifier, which is that they would be in the wholesale, retail, manufacturing and construction sectors, in which you find more people who are working in servitude in the supply chains.
I ask the Minister and the Government to accept this small enabling amendment. It is a safety net to ensure that all the hard work in tackling this terror will not have been in vain. If it is needed—and if the Bill does what is intended, it will not be needed—it will apply to a small number of companies. Behaviour change in the 124 companies which would qualify would have the biggest impact on the greatest number of people and would bring up the standards of all.
Baroness Kennedy of Cradley: My Lords, I support Amendment 98, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool.
The case for legislating for transparency in supply chains as part of the Bill has been well made and it is very welcome that it is being progressed by the Government through Clause 51. Now, as many noble Lords have said, the task is to get the detail of the legislation right and agree between us a well crafted clause that levels the playing field for business, informs investors, shareholders and consumers and drives change to end slavery in supply chains. I support Amendment 98 because it would do exactly that.
Amendment 98 would rewrite Clause 51 by adding, where necessary, elements of detail to ensure that it is more meaningful, effective and workable. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, in line with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which came into force in 2012, the amendment defines the threshold as not less than £60 million and, most importantly, includes the term “group undertaking” when determining the total turnover. That is important because it allows multinational companies that may have small operations in the UK to be covered by this legislation.
We all want the Bill to have global reach. Therefore, having a way to ensure the inclusion of all large foreign companies that provide services to the UK is vital. Clause 51 is ill defined in parts and Amendment 98 seeks to correct that in a number of ways. First, it suggests a simple change in the language to make the intent of the clause explicit. In the Modern Slavery Strategy the Government make it clear that they want this legislation to ensure that businesses investigate and report on modern-day slavery through the annual statements they are required to produce. It is therefore important that that aim is made explicit in the Bill. Subsection (4)(a) is consequently amended to confirm that the statement is specifically to “identify and address” the issue of slavery and human trafficking. It is its primary aim.
It is also important that the remit of this statement is more tightly defined. The clearer this legislation is, the better—for business and consumers alike.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1902
Subsection (5) of Amendment 98 provides a framework for the statements. It makes sure that minimum disclosure measures are included in the Bill: the need for risk assessments; the need to set out who has been involved in identifying the risks; what actions have been taken to mitigate the risks; and what has been the impact of those actions. The “how” should be left to guidance. Without those minimum criteria, as other noble Lords have said, comparisons between companies will be impossible to make and the level playing field desired by good businesses will be difficult to achieve.
We also need to look to and learn from the Californian Act and not repeat its mistakes. The learning from the application of the California legislation to date also shows us why it is necessary to be clear in the legislation about what you want to achieve and what you expect business to report. In California hundreds of organisations have issued statements in line with the Act, but there is a wide variation in the information provided in those statements. Some have disclosed meaningless information, some have disclosed misleading information, and a few—perhaps worst of all—have thwarted the legislation and disclosed that they do nothing and are indifferent to the issue of slavery in their supply chains. For example, Caterpillar Incorporated, a multinational company reported to hold $89 billion in assets, which manufactures its products and components in 110 factories worldwide in high risk countries such as India and Indonesia, issued a woefully inadequate statement. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts issued a statement of just 182 words, using them to say that as regards slavery it does not verify product supply chains, conduct audits of suppliers or require direct suppliers to certify materials.
Getting businesses to produce statements of that kind is not what this part of the Bill is about, and I do not believe it is what the Government intended it to be about. Clause 51 is not a paper exercise for businesses to write down in 200 words or less that they do not do any of this kind of work and do not intend to start. It is a serious measure that we need businesses to engage in and which good businesses want to engage positively with, properly and on an equal footing with each other. It is not fair that the good businesses that do excellent work, actively searching for evidence of exploitation, are being undercut and undermined. That is why having minimum criteria in the Bill is vital. Setting out those minimum criteria would not make the task more burdensome for business; the task—the production of the statement—remains the same. Minimum measures just give a framework for the task so that a level playing field between businesses is achieved.
Proper monitoring is also vital and, as the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said, it is not currently clear how this part of the Bill will be properly monitored and enforced. Amendment 98 seeks to address that, too. Again, if we look to learn from the experience of the Californian Act, here some companies have ignored the Act completely. Research in January of this year quoted 85 companies as ignoring the legislation. That level of disregard is unacceptable, and we should make sure it is not replicated in the UK. Amendment 98 also ensures that a named
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1903
government department receives and makes sure that the statements are easily publically available. It ensures that there will be consequences for blatant flouting of the legislation—as we have seen in California—by companies that do not comply or refuse to comply. Most importantly, it makes sure that compliance with this clause is a corporate responsibility. You need leadership from the top to change attitudes and make things happen.
I also very much support the requirement for a review after three years, which is included in Amendment 98. This part of the Bill in particular, as it is a completely new area of work, would benefit from a re-evaluation over a specified time period. Formally being able to hear the views of businesses, NGOs, trade unions and consumers on how this legislation operates in practice, and committing to bring forward changes where needed, would be a positive step forward.
I hope that the Government can accept much—if not all—of what is included in Amendment 98 and that they will look seriously at Amendment 98A in the name of my noble friend Lady McDonagh. She has clearly set out the impact multinational corporations can have in the fight against slavery. The 124 companies to which she referred, which operate in high risk sectors and which have a combined turnover of approximately $1 trillion, can clearly influence the working conditions in tens of thousands of workplaces and help many millions of workers across the world. The power of this small group of companies is huge. They have the power to reform their business models, insist on inspection regimes, support local efforts to empower workers and insist on decent wages and formal contracts for all workers here in the UK and across the world. Her amendment brings home to us that we cannot rid the world of slavery without the help of big business.
The provisions in my noble friend’s amendment would enable the economic strength of these companies to be a force for good—something they want to be and something we desperately need them to be. Many if not all those companies understand the reputational damage and loss of both consumer confidence and market share they will suffer if they are found to be sourcing from suppliers which use exploitative labour. Most companies want supply chains that reflect their brand, not brands that reflect their supply chains, so I am sure that, like Amendment 98, this amendment will not be seen as a burden but an advantage. I hope that both amendments and what they set out can be accepted by the Government.
Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I am grateful to him for tabling it.
I have put my name to this amendment because it would do two important things. First, it will give businesses more certainty and clarity when producing the slavery and human trafficking statements required of them. That clarity is vital in saving businesses time. Secondly, however, it would also provide consumers with the information they need to hold businesses to account. Without the clarity that the amendment would provide, I am concerned that stakeholders, investors
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1904
and campaigners will not be able to play their part effectively in helping stamp out the abhorrent practices that exist in some of our supply chains.
The media have done an excellent job in highlighting just how far slavery and forced labour have penetrated the supply chains for many of the goods and services that we take for granted, from basic foodstuffs to electronic goods, clothing and fashion. But modern slavery exists across the globe, and whichever form it takes, business supply chains are involved in some way or another. Slavery in supply chains is closer than we often realise. A couple of weeks ago, the owner of a bed factory in West Yorkshire that supplied retail chains such as Next and John Lewis was charged with human trafficking and slavery offences.
I believe that it is not for government to keep legislating. One could say that we should deregulate in order to get the economy going. Indeed, we must work with private sector organisations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses and the CBI, to take the lead in education within various industry sectors. However, when considering any new regulation to impose on business, we must answer three important questions: is it necessary, is it clear, and how much will it add to the bottom line?
On the first of these questions, I am left in no doubt as to the necessity of the amendment. It is rare for business groups and civil society organisations to reach common agreement on new regulation, but in this instance that is exactly what they have done. All are calling for minimum measures of disclosure, greater clarity in reporting, and tougher monitoring, enforcement and compliance. On the second question, the amendment would make it clearer for all those who have to produce these statements what they need to include, where the statements need to be lodged and what they can expect if they do not comply. Thirdly, I believe that the amendment would actually be good for business. It would help protect businesses, because constant stories about the failure of companies to monitor their supply chains will cause significant harm to their reputation and brand, and thus their bottom line.
Transparency in supply chains is the first step in the journey of rooting out slavery and forced labour from supply chains for good. The more explicit we can be at this stage, the more effective we will be over the long term. Both the Ethical Trading Initiative and the British Retail Consortium have written to me in support of the amendment. Their members include global companies with thousands of suppliers—familiar high street brands such as Asda, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer—so their views on this issue should carry significant weight.
As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has indicated, there is a consensus across civil society groups as well as businesses that the amendment is needed, and that it would provide the information they need to play their part. I would also bring to noble Lords’ attention the fact that more than 20 asset management providers have added their support for the inclusion of supply chain reporting requirements in the Bill, including Hermes, Rathbone Greenbank Investments and Alliance Trust.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1905
I recently spoke with Katherine Garrett-Cox, the chief executive of Alliance Trust, who is a highly respected figure in the Scottish business community. She says:
“We have been passionate advocates of a greater level of transparency in the management of supply chains and believe that the UK has a unique opportunity to lead the way in recognising those that do this well—by rewarding companies that promote and practise strong values. As a leading investor we also believe that by focusing upon this critical topic, our industry will increasingly differentiate between good and poor practice and can rightly hold those who violate basic human rights in their business models to account”.
Finally, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Bates for all his efforts in steering this important Bill through the House, and ask him to bear in mind that Clause 51 has been added because there is a genuine effort on the part of the Government to progress this matter. I hope that he will be able to respond positively to the amendment, which I believe would make what is already a good Bill even better.
Lord Rosser: My Lords, I will be brief. These two amendments are wider-ranging than my amendment but their intentions and objectives are similar, and I wait to see whether they will elicit a more enthusiastic government response. I also await the response to what I believe to be the request of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for discussions involving the Government on this matter before the next stage in the passage of the Bill through this House.
Lord Bates: I cannot quite match the noble Lord’s brevity, but I will try to go as far as I can, because some interesting proposals have been made. The first was the idea, suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, of reconvening, between now and Report, his group, including the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, on the issues of the supply chain. That would be a very helpful thing to do, and I would be happy to take part in it. The noble Lord talked about the process—the journey that we are on—starting when the new clause was tabled. Some may use the term “kicking and screaming”, but I think that a sinner who repenteth ought to be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven—and into Parliament. I believe we are making progress down that route.
Many points were made about the regulatory framework, to which the noble Lord referred in great detail. The regulatory framework is setting out the long-term strategy. That is where we want to be. There are some stages to go through, in relation to the point made by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. He raised the desire to see more bite than there is at the moment. I cannot give any assurances that that will be there by the time the Bill reaches Royal Assent. However, by the time of the process of consultation is complete and the guidance has been issued—
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: I thank the Minister for giving way, but will he pay particular attention to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik? She spoke from the point of view of business and emphasised
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1906
the fact that businesses would value greater clarity in what was being required of them in these statements and how they were to go about it. I felt that she was making a very important point from the point of view of business.
Lord Bates: I agree, and my noble friend Lady Mobarik made a very good point by making it clear that it is out of enlightened self-interest that business ought to be pursuing these things. We also need to recognise that we introduced into the Companies Act the requirement for ports to carry a statement on human rights. As with so many of the issues raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy and Lady McDonagh, this relates to human rights. You could almost say, without waiting for anything else, that the current legislation that requires a report on human rights could be broadened to include a statement on the human rights of the people involved in the supply chain. Those types of things might give urgency to it. On the assets idea, from my experience of business, nothing grabs the attention better of the chief financial officer, the chief executive or the chairman of the board and the people who invest. The noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, referred to about 20 institutions of the size of Hermes, which is a huge fund, and Rathbone. When they put weight on that, when they hold shares and hold votes to determine who is the chairman of the board and the non-executive directors and what the remuneration of the senior employees should be—that is precisely the type of group that will grab more attention for these important issues than possibly even more specific legislation.
I am conscious of time, but I am also conscious that I want to pay respect to the two tablers of the amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, with an undertaking to meet and continue the dialogue; and to give an assurance that we will do further work, if or when we meet between Committee and Report, when we will have the terms of reference for the consultation to look at. We can get some early responses to that and see what can be done further to reassure the noble Lord that the Government see this very much as a way of starting down the road. As with all these things, business should be aware that once you start putting down legislation such as this, it tends to be a one-way street. You do not go back. If people do not comply and if business does not take it seriously, this Government or future Governments will say that there is a demand and that they need to act to put more legislation down for businesses to comply with. So I hope, with that canter around the issues, but with some specific commitments to look carefully at this, that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, feels able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the Minister has been generous in how he has dealt with the issues that have arisen, especially at this late hour. I was struck that he talked about how sinners repenteth, when I was thinking more that Ministers are damned if they do and damned if they do not. I am personally appreciative of the fact that the clause is now in the Bill and, of course, it is incumbent on noble Lords to try to build on provisions in the amendment.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1907
One might use another metaphor about the bird in hand. On this occasion there is a Bill in hand, and a legislative opportunity. We cannot come back in another year from now with legislative proposals. This is the time to make them and I do not think that any of us wants to feel that the moment has passed without our doing justice. I reiterate that, because this is something that came into the Bill so late in another place, it is something to which, outside your Lordships’ House, we should give more time and attention. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley, Lady McDonagh and Lady Mobarik, as well as my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth for the contributions that they have made in supporting the principles that underpin this and the other amendment before your Lordships. I am also grateful for the Minister’s willingness to meet those who tabled the amendments and the large array of those involved in this issue.
The Minister said that the important thing was to grab the board’s attention to get them thinking about these things. He is right about the power of investment and resources. I was very struck that Matt Crossman at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, which has more than £900 billion of investment, said:
“It is in the best interests of business to join the fight against modern slavery … Specific, but proportionate, legislation can allow companies to continue making progress, whilst ensuring that firms can no longer turn a blind eye to these issues”.
Naheeda Rashid of Hermes, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, said:
“Companies which are able to demonstrate that they understand and are actively addressing the complexities of the risks in their supply chains will be better placed in managing both their reputation and disruptions to their operations”.
That is what these amendments seek to do—they put real flesh on the bones of Clause 51. I hope that, when the House resumes after the Christmas break, we will have a chance to hold the meetings to which the Minister referred. I hope that Report will not be reached for some weeks, which gives us some time to do that. With the assurances that the Minister has given us, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 98 withdrawn.
Amendment 98A not moved.
99: Before Clause 52, insert the following new Clause—
(1) Within 5 years of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must—
(a) carry out a review of the provisions of this Act,
(b) carry out a review more broadly about the current position of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking within the United Kingdom and internationally, and
(c) prepare and publish a report setting out the conclusions of the review.
(2) The report must in particular—
(a) set out the objectives intended to be achieved by this Act,
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1908
(b) assess the extent to which those objectives have been achieved,
(c) assess whether those objectives remain appropriate and, if so, the extent to which they could be achieved in another way, and
(d) consider the strategic plans and annual reports submitted by the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner.
(3) The Secretary of State must lay the report before Parliament.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I fear I have drawn the short straw and may be exasperating one or two noble Lords, but this is the last amendment and I do not intend to delay the Committee for very long. In many ways, the amendment is self-explanatory: it calls for a review of the legislation within five years of the passing of the Act—the review could come much earlier than that, if it was so desired. The report would,
“set out the objectives intended to be achieved by this Act, … assess the extent to which those objectives have been achieved, … assess whether those objectives remain appropriate … and … consider the strategic plans and annual reports submitted by the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner”.
A lot of emphasis has been placed on how successful the pre-legislative process has been. Surely, it is reasonable to talk about post-legislative examination of the Bill, too, and to put in the Bill a requirement for that to happen. I remind your Lordships that in 2004 the House of Lords Constitution Committee reported on the process and said that:
“Post-legislative scrutiny appears to be similar to motherhood and apple pie in that everyone appears to be in favour of it. However, unlike motherhood and apple pie, it is not much in evidence”.
The Constitution Committee, the Law Commission and the Government have looked at these questions. When the Constitution Committee reported in 2004, it found that there was significant room for much greater post-legislative scrutiny. The committee recommended that government departments should be responsible for producing a memorandum of the post-legislative review of the Act, which a Select Committee could then conduct an inquiry into. Acknowledging the Constitution Committee’s findings, the Government then asked the Law Commission to conduct its own inquiry into post-legislative scrutiny. The Law Commission reported back in October 2006, proposing a Joint Committee for post-legislative scrutiny.
The Constitution Committee argued that greater scrutiny might encourage the Government to reframe their definition of success from getting,
“their ‘big Bill’ on the statute book”,
to measuring the effect that it had. Given that we are sometimes inclined to pass declamatory legislation that looks good on paper and is a “big Bill”, surely it is right that we come back to have a look at how it worked out in practice. That committee, by the way, also warned that leaving any post-legislative scrutiny exclusively to the Government or solely to Select Committees might encourage selective scrutiny. Interestingly, the Government in their response said:
“the Government believes that strengthening post-legislative scrutiny further could help to ensure that the Government’s aims are delivered in practice and that the considerable resources devoted to legislation are committed to good effect”.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1909
I will not go through this in detail, but I was struck by evidence that one witness gave at the time that the Law Commission was looking at this issue. He said:
“If post-legislative scrutiny is to be effective … it should be owned by, and directed by Parliament. The Government will of course be a major contributor to that review but should not be in charge of the process or be in a position unduly to influence that process”.
The Law Commission concluded that a Parliament-based review process was popular, seeing it as an extension of the legislature’s existing remit to scrutinise and consider legislation wisely.
More recently, in 2010, the Leader’s Group on Working Practices in the House was appointed to,
“consider the working practices of the House and the operation of self-regulation”.
I note that it considered post-legislative scrutiny. At paragraph 139 it referred back to that statement about “motherhood and apple pie” in 2004, and went on to say that,
“neither Parliament nor the Government has yet committed the resources necessary to make systematic post-legislative review a reality. Like the Law Commission and the Hansard Society, we see merit in post-legislative review being undertaken by a Joint Committee. However, in the absence of Government support and bicameral agreement, no progress has been made towards this goal. We therefore believe that it is time for the House of Lords to establish its own Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee. This could lead to the establishment of a joint committee in due course—but the desirability of joint action must not be a brake on progress”.
At paragraph 141 it said:
“We recommend that the House of Lords appoint a Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, to manage the process of reviewing up to four selected Acts of Parliament each year”.
The House debated that report in June 2011 and the Leader of the House at the time made the following comments:
“As regards post-legislative scrutiny, I am well aware of concerns that once legislation is passed, insufficient attention is devoted to its implementation and effects”.—[Official Report, 27/6/2011; col. 1553.]
Paragraph 38 of the Liaison Committee’s report, Review of Select Committee Activity and Proposals for New Committee Activity, states:
“Post-legislative scrutiny is potentially an important new area of Select Committee activity for the House of Lords”.
This legislation is not about motherhood and apple pie. As the Minister and noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber have said throughout all its stages, this is about one of the most awful evils being perpetrated in the world today. The Minister has rightly emphasised throughout our proceedings that this is legislation that we want others to emulate throughout the world. Surely, with such world-class legislation, we fairly rapidly should go back, look at it and see how it worked out in practice. My amendment would put in the Bill—and it is not without precedent—a commitment to doing that. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will feel that it is a modest and reasonable proposal and one that the Government might accept. I beg to move.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, the Government will be rightly congratulated when the Bill has gone through all its stages, but, as I think we
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1910
are all aware, that is only the first stage. What really will count will be how effectively they get the legislation implemented. Therefore, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I am very glad to support his amendment. It is crucial that we review the Bill within five years of its passing into law. In many respects the Bill is pioneering new ground. Obviously, it will turn out that some things are perhaps not quite as effective as we hope that they will be, but I regard this review as crucial to the effectiveness of this legislation. The thought of having a review in five years will also help to focus and sharpen people’s minds as they know that things will be assessed.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I also support the amendment. I am not sure in what year the review should be held. I think to say “within five years” is sensible, but it might well be wiser to do it within three years. This is such an important Bill. As I have said previously, the Government are to be congratulated on bringing it forward and for doing so much to make it work. Although we on the Cross Benches, like noble Lords on other Benches, have been critical from time to time, we are well aware of the effort that the Government have made. However, it is important to make sure that the Bill works. The strategies of government that are not in the legislative process will have to be reviewed, but in reviewing those it will also be important to see whether the legislation is strong enough and working well enough for it to manage the strategies that go with it. I urge the Minister to support the idea that there should, at some stage, be post-legislative scrutiny of this important Bill.
Lord Bates: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for proposing the amendment. The Government are committed to post-legislative scrutiny of legislation under the existing arrangements agreed with Select Committees. The Government believe that post-legislative scrutiny is generally preferable to ad hoc and potentially inconsistent specific statutory requirements in individual Bills. The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s report into legislative standards praised the Government’s record on post-legislative scrutiny, saying:
“We urge the Government to continue to produce these useful memoranda. In return, we will undertake, and we take this opportunity to encourage other Select Committees to undertake, more visible post-legislative scrutiny work when opportunities arise”.
Since 2012, the House of Lords has established committees on an ad hoc basis specifically to conduct post-legislative scrutiny. I am sure that the House will consider carefully whether the future Modern Slavery Act would be a good candidate for such scrutiny.
However, I would like to place on record once more the Government’s commitment to providing a post-legislative scrutiny memorandum on the Bill within three to five years of Royal Assent. The Government will consult the Home Affairs Committee on the timing of publication of the memorandum, but that is a commitment. In the longer term, the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner will continue to assess the response to modern slavery and how it is provided, and if new forms of abuse emerge. In addition to the commitment of a memorandum in three to five years,
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1911
we will also have the update of the
Modern Slavery Strategy
, produced by the interdepartmental ministerial group on modern slavery. We will also have the anti-slavery commissioner’s annual report, which I am sure will be awaited with great interest by Members of your Lordships’ House.
There are therefore a number of opportunities for this type of scrutiny to happen. Having taken part in the Leader’s Group, which considered ways to improve the workings of your Lordships’ House and elsewhere, I have to say that one of the joys of this Bill is that it has been a textbook example of how legislation should work: first, producing a Bill, which is scrutinised in pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government then come back with a revised Bill and go through a meaningful stage in another place where amendments are made. The same happens in this place, so it seems to me absolutely logical that we should not leave the job unfinished but follow it through right to the end. That is why we are very much behind this commitment. We will produce the Explanatory Memorandum to ensure that that post-legislative scrutiny does arise.
Given that this may well be the last time that I am on my feet in Committee, I thank your Lordships for the way in which we have engaged in this very tough and passionate four days. It has given a huge amount of work for officials to think about and work on between now and Report. Somebody once said: “To govern is to choose”. There are going to be so many issues that we are going to have to work on that we will have to engage in some prioritisation about what is absolutely critical to get in the Bill before Royal Assent and what work can be continued under the watchful eyes of your Lordships and the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner thereafter. That work and the meetings will continue and we look forward to making further progress on Report. I thank the noble Lord and ask him to consider withdrawing his amendment.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, if, as the Minister has said, this legislation has been exemplary in the way in which it has been handled, and I think it has been, then I would also say, and I do not think I would be alone in saying this, that the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, have been exemplary in the way in which they have treated each of us. I can only speak for myself as a Cross-Bencher, but I suspect that it is a view shared across the Chamber that throughout proceedings we have been treated with great courtesy and thoughtfulness in the way in which the amendments have been considered, not least this amendment. I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has promised that post-legislative procedures will be put in place. Obviously, I would prefer it to be in the Bill, but he will not be surprised by that. However, I feel very pleased with the assurances that he has given to your Lordships. I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 99 withdrawn.
10 Dec 2014 : Column 1912
November 26th 2014 – Debate on Pay Day Loans and the Targetting of Young people
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in returning to this issue, which I spoke to at Second Reading and in Committee, I first thank the noble Baronesses, Lady
26 Nov 2014 : Column 892
Neville-Rolfe and Lady Jolly, for the time that they and their officials have given to it. The meeting that they held with me, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham and the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, earlier today was certainly helpful.
As the right reverend Prelate just said, this issue has not just exercised Members on all sides of your Lordships’ House at all stages of the Bill but it has also engaged the public outside.
I am glad to speak today to Amendment 47, to which I have added my name as a cosignatory. Our amendments are a composite of the amendments which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro and I moved in Committee and build on that momentum. I hope that they become part of the Bill. However, I recognise that although legislative moments come and are the most important point for parliamentarians to insist on provisions, it is not always possible to achieve legislative outcomes. If that is the case today, I hope that when the Minister comes to reply to the debate, she will be able to say, if the Government agree, as I think they do, with the principles contained in the amendments, how they will be rigorous in ensuring that the advertising industry, the licensing authorities and, above all, the payday loan industry will act in accordance with the amendments, and how we as a House will have the opportunity in due course to hold all those bodies to account.
Lord Higgins (Con): I am looking in vain for some reference to the watershed to which the right reverend Prelate referred. I cannot see where it is in Amendment 47.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: The issue that the noble Lord rightly raises would be covered in the regulations to be laid before the House under proposed new subsection (1). There is a difference between being able to advertise to and target young people, which is the main thrust of the amendment, and the second part, which is about whether there can be regulation after the watershed. It is true that the advertising industry and payday loan lenders recognise that there is an issue about targeting young people, but up until this point, we have not heard enough from them about what they would do about advertising that might appear after the watershed. If I may, I shall return to that in a moment or two.
Lord Higgins: I am very much in favour of the amendment, but the right reverend Prelate referred to the watershed as if it were in the amendment. Am I right in thinking that in fact it does not appear in the amendment, only in a statutory instrument intended under the amendment?
Lord Alton of Liverpool: It is certainly true that it could appear in an instrument or regulations. However, subsection (1) of the proposed new clause refers to the content as well as the timing with regard to people below the age of 18. What that part of the amendment recognises is that some young people are bound to be watching television after the watershed and that would certainly need to be addressed.
26 Nov 2014 : Column 893
Payday loan advertising is a significant factor which contributes to the social context in which people make their financial decisions. People are endlessly blitzed by messages encouraging them to spend and to borrow, whereas there is minimal knowledge about money advice and debt help services. Our failure to develop a nationwide network of credit unions has always been a major disappointment to me and a contributory factor to the ability of these payday loan lenders to walk into that space.
With the prevalence of payday loan advertising increasing by more than 20 times from 2009 to 2012, according to Ofcom research published in December 2013, far outstripping the advertising of sound financial management or general financial education—although there is commendable and wonderful work, as the right reverend Prelate referred to, by organisations such as Christians Against Poverty, StepChange, the Children’s Society and CARE—it is hardly surprising that payday loans are increasingly being seen as a normal and responsible means of personal financial organisation. What today’s children see, hear and understand from what they are taught today, and from the advertisements that they see, will impact hugely on their future.
What is particularly concerning about the normalisation of payday loans as a means of borrowing is that it particularly manifests itself among young people, specifically, in younger parents. According to Playday not Payday, a report produced earlier this year by the Children’s Society, 39% of parents aged 18 to 24 are likely to have used payday loans at some point, compared to 18% of 25 to 34 year-olds and just 8% of 35 to 44 year-old parents. It is interesting that the same report concluded that 30% of 18 to 24 year-old parents describe payday loans as an acceptable means of managing day-to-day expenses. Perhaps we can take some encouragement in that 9% of 18 to 24 year-old parents recognise that although they have used payday loans, they do not see them as an acceptable means of managing day-to-day expenses—but that is scant encouragement.
This week, Ofcom, the regulator and competition authority for the United Kingdom’s communications industry, published results concerning children from its Digital Day 2014 research. The study found that just over three-quarters—78%—of children aged 11 to 15 and 90% of six to 11 year-olds watched live TV every day over the course of a week. With so many children consuming so much television, it is important that we ensure that they consume what is appropriate.
In our earlier debates on the Bill it was said that there is a logical inconsistency in the current approach to the advertising of payday loans. I agree with that. We properly accept certain limitations on advertising, even in a free-market economy, where it is recognised that normalising potentially harmful behaviours should be avoided, as is the case, for example, with alcohol or gambling advertisements. Payday loans should be treated in the same way. I have yet to hear a cogent argument against that.
Critics of closing the loophole note that payday loan advertising is not targeted at children and that restricting adverts until after the 9 pm watershed—the
26 Nov 2014 : Column 894
point made by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, earlier on—is therefore unnecessary. I must say that I find that argument unconvincing, although I note that the noble Lord is not one of those who advance it. An advert can appeal to someone without being targeted at them. Although payday loans may not be advertised specifically around children’s programming, children do not only see programmes designed for them. They see a range of content.
In a poll conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Children’s Society, 74% of parents across the country backed a ban on payday loan adverts from airing on TV and radio before the 9 pm watershed. We should listen to them. Parents also tell us that they feel under pressure from their children with regard to payday loans. Research conducted by the award-winning MoneySavingExpert.com website revealed that more than one in three parents with children under the age of 10 have heard their children repeat slogans from payday loan TV advertisements. In the same poll, 14% of parents said that when they refused to purchase something for their under-10 year-olds, they were nagged to take out a payday loan for it. All of us who have children know all too well the almost irresistible gut-wrenching pull of the plea of a child—especially on a sleep-deprived parent. We may reminisce with rose-tinted spectacles about this now, but the reality is that for some families this is what is called “pester power”. It is the beginning of a slippery slope, often towards indebtedness and poverty.
If there are steps we can take to avoid families slipping unnoticed into indebtedness, we must surely take them. These amendments do not represent a magic bullet. I do not think that the right reverend Prelate, the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, or the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, would argue that. I accept that there is no single solution or quick fix. Whole-person financial care is vital. Financial education is crucial to prepare children for financial independence. Equipping children and young people to make financially capable choices will also help to break the sort of cycles of deprivation that many of us have seen, especially in urban areas—places like the city of Liverpool, which I represented for 18 years in another place. But preventing seductive, alluring, irresponsible advertisements can also play its part.
These amendments will therefore make a difference. They will ensure that children are less familiar with high-cost consumer credit products such as payday loans. They will ensure that adults are protected from overt pressure in the form of overbearing and intrusive unsolicited marketing. They will help families and insulate children from the subtle pressure and normalisation of payday loans as an appropriate form of financial management.
For all those reasons, I am very happy to support the amendment so ably moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, not least because of the discussion that some of us were able to take part in earlier about this very issue. However, a debate and a review, of course, are no substitute for legislation, as she will agree. Will she at least commit, not about debates or reviews but about what the Government can commit to themselves, which is legislation if the review does not bring forward the necessary mechanisms to control this disease which has been described by so many noble Lords today as affecting so many people?
Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I do not dispute for one minute that we would all like to see this problem go away. Regrettably, these decisions are made by Treasury Ministers and this is well above my pay grade.
A noble Lord: But you are a Minister.
Baroness Jolly: I am, indeed, a Minister. However, there are things to which this lowly Minister will not commit. I want to press on.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I second the amendment and support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham in moving it. My name is on the Marshalled List in support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro, who tabled the amendment. I will keep my remarks brief because we exhausted many of the arguments in the previous amendment.
One figure that struck me very much is the £8.3 billion estimate of the social costs of debt problems. Putting aside such staggering figures, which are quite hard sometimes to understand, I think about the families I have met over the years who have seen their family life, community life and whole neighbourhoods broken as a consequence of indebtedness and the debt culture. The time that your Lordships spent when this Parliament was first convened considering the crisis we were facing because of the national debt is being replicated in the area of personal debt. Sometimes we overlook the latter because we are concentrating so much, rightly, on the former. However, many families are deeply immersed in debt, which is incredibly destructive of their family life. I suspect that one of the major factors in the breakdown of family life is people taking out all sorts of commitments and debts that they did not fully understand, when they entered into them, they would not be able to honour and meet. It ultimately leads to friction, disagreement, inability to pay and, then, catastrophic results. Anyone who read the front-page report in the Times newspaper this week about the effects of the breakdown of family life in this country on outcomes, particularly for young people, should surely be troubled by these things.
All of us will have experienced high-pressured, targeting salesmanship. It is incredibly frustrating to pick up the telephone and find people trying to sell you yet something else that you do not need, but many of us can easily be susceptible to it. This is a good amendment and one that I hope the Government will feel able to accept today. I am very happy to support the right reverend Prelate.
House of Lords Debate November 26th 2014.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, no one has done more to keep the issues of caste, untouchability and the Dalits before your Lordships’ House than my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries of Pentregarth. Earlier this year I was very privileged, as I feel I am again today, to share a platform with him at a conference here in London that looked at the issue of caste.
To prepare for that conference, I read Dhananjay Keer’s admirable biography of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was the architect of the Indian constitution, which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, just referred to. He was born into a family of untouchables in 1891, and he said:
“Untouchability is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove the stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”.
In the speeches we have heard already in this debate, we have heard the aroused conscience of the world.
No one, therefore, is attacking the state of India. It has done a great deal to try to address this question.
My noble and right reverend friend quoted Dr Manmohan Singh, and many illustrious Indian politicians have done their best to try to tackle this problem, but the sheer scale of it is what has struck me most in the contributions we have heard so far.
It was Ambedkar who, while still a young man, aged just 20, pointed to perhaps the best way forward in dealing with caste. He said:
“Let your mission be to educate and preach the idea of education to those at least who are near to and in close contact with you”.
As other noble Lords have said, education is the key to addressing the poverty and exploitation of Dalits in India. Education provides the knowledge, skills and qualifications that have the potential to help Dalits escape the cycle of poverty and exploitation.
The Indian Government have made considerable efforts to address this, not least through the right to education Act 2009, and initiatives such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which aims for universal access and retention, the bridging of gender and social gaps in education and the enhancement of learning levels. Enrolment, attendance and retention levels have improved,
26 Nov 2014 : Column GC308
but there are still significant issues around attendance and drop-out rates, particularly among Dalit children. The Human Rights Watch report, “They Say We’re Dirty”: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized, which was published earlier this year, highlights the number of Dalit children who drop out of education and the persistence of discriminatory practices in the classroom.
The report calls for better tracking of pupils and greater efforts to ensure social inclusion.
I will develop that point about non-attendance at school because it plays into the arguments that we are discussing in the context of the Modern Slavery Bill and human trafficking.
The economic pressure on marginalised groups gives families little choice but to require their children to work or even in some instances in effect to sell their children.
Dalit Freedom Network, a trafficking prevention organisation, estimates that Dalits are 27 times more likely to be trafficked or to be trapped in bonded labour than anyone else in India. The organisation supports 100 schools, providing education to more than 25,000 children, mainly from the Dalit and tribal communities. It estimates that if the children were not in their schools, some 30% to 40% would be trafficked or in bonded labour.
Although enrolment levels have improved in Indian schools, there are still issues around obtaining school places, particularly where there is an insistence on identity documents. Some Dalits have had immense difficulty in getting hold of ID. There is a particular issue around children of Devadasis or Joginis—temple prostitutes—almost all of whom are Dalits. The nature of this practice means that their mothers do not have husbands, so when the school insists on having the name of the child’s father, the children are unable to provide this, and as a result, they are refused places. The authorities also need to focus not simply on enrolment but on retention of every child in school until at least the age of 14. A system to track and monitor children is essential, along with a protocol for identifying those have dropped out or who are at risk of dropping out.
Although current thinking in development often calls for education in the local language—and I will be interested to hear from the Minister on DfID’s thinking about this—there are particular reasons why Dalit leaders have asked for English-medium education. English is still the language of opportunity in India. It is the language of higher education, government, trade and commerce and the legal system. Why else would children of high-caste families be sent to private English-medium education? In the district of Banka, Bihar, the Dalit community has constructed a temple for,
“the Goddess English hailing her as a deity of liberation from poverty, ignorance and oppression”.
The goddess stands on a computer monitor, a symbol perhaps of economic advancement. I would be intrigued to hear from the Minister whether this is an approach that we are supporting. I hope it is.
I would also like to talk briefly about Dalits and the freedom of religion and belief. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights insists that it is the right of anyone to hold the religion of their choice. Over the past several hundred years, many Dalits have changed their faith in order to come out of oppression
26 Nov 2014 : Column GC309
and discrimination based on caste. Ironically, only untouchable Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists are considered “scheduled castes” and therefore registered castes with entitlements to state support, such as protective mechanisms under various pieces of legislation and quotas for places at university and for employment in government services. Freedom of religion is a value for society as a whole. It is universally agreed that the internal dimension of a person’s religion or belief should enjoy absolute protection. Have the Government spoken with the new Indian Government about whether they uphold Article 18?
Mahatma Gandhi said,
“Our struggle does not end so long as there is a single human being considered untouchable on account of his birth”.
India is incredible and amazing. It is one of the greatest countries in the world today. What is amazing and incredible is that there could still be untouchability, now, in the 21st century.
Click here to hear (and see the slide presentation) made during the 123rd Roscoe Lecture, held on Thursday November 13th at St.George’s Hall Liverpool- and which commemorated the role of Noel Chavasse VC and the Liverpool Pals during the Great War:
The Lecture was presented by Bill Sergeant and Tony Wainwright
London Conference on the Benefits of Religious Education: Bloomsbury, November 6th 2014.
When young people used to ask me what they needed to study if they were interested in entering political or public life I used to say that a grasp of economics and current affairs would serve them well. Read political biography, understand some basic concepts of philosophy, grapple with competing ideas and ideologies.
Today, I would unhesitatingly say that the first thing which you need to understand if you have an interest in politics or public life, is religion and theology.
Whether you survey the domestic or the international agenda, without a grasp of the ideas which underpin our Judaeo-Christian tradition, and without a knowledge of other faiths and of secular humanism, it is impossible to have a coherent view of geo-political issues or of the profound ethical and moral questions which constantly emerge on the legislative agenda. So, on a number of counts, those who try to relegate the importance of teaching about religion are simply wrong. Furthermore, religious illiteracy, especially amongst commentators, policy makers and those interested in conflict prevention, represents an extremely dangerous aberration. Governments simply cannot tackle the challenges and crises besetting the world with only a poor grasp of the religious dimension.
The problem is that although many are realising that religion does matter, very few actually understand how it matters and what positive and negative effects religion may have. Understanding the religious and faith dimensions of any single issue, region or country might be the difference between violence and peace, unity or division, success or failure.
It isn’t long ago that the death of religious belief and observance was widely predicted. The high priests of secularism prophesied that industrialization, science and technological progress would end all religious belief. Yet, the reality of the 21st century suggests something rather different.
The percentage of the world’s population claiming to follow Christianity, Islam or Hinduism has gone from 50% in 1900 to 64% in 2000. Look at today’s conflicts across Africa, the Middle East and Asia: religion is relevant.
On Tuesday I chaired the launch of a new document, detailing the rise of religious persecution. We were supported with a personal message from HRH the Prince of Wales.
Compiled by journalists, academics and commentators, the report reveals worrying concerns for people of faith in 116 of the world’s 196 countries (nearly 60 percent of all countries).
• global religious freedom has declined around the world in the last two years, including in western countries with a Christian heritage;
• religious freedom has changed in 61 countries but has improved in just six of them;
• in the remaining 55 that underwent change the situation of religious minorities deteriorated;
• “high” levels of religious persecution were discovered in 20 countries, with 14 linked to extremist Islam and six to authoritarian regimes;
• Christians remain by far the most persecuted minority, although Muslims and Jews in some countries are also facing discrimination and persecution.
The report indicates that many of those in authority – governments and religious leaders – have continually failed to stand up for religious freedom and hence Article 18 of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights has become an orphaned right.
Serial human rights abuses – from the threat of massacres in the Middle East and discrimination in the workplace in Western countries – are the direct result of religious freedom violations.
The report also notes other trends, including:
• The rise of religious intolerance and “aggressive atheism” in Western Europe.
• Large population displacements due to religious persecution, especially in the Middle East.
• A growing “religious illiteracy” among Western policy makes, leading to misunderstandings in foreign policy areas.
• A worrying growth of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe
• Even as the report was being launched we learnt of a young Christian couple who were burnt alive in Pakistan – a country which has sentenced a Christian woman, Asia Bibbi, to death on so called charges of blasphemy. We think of the 200 abducted school girls in Nigeria, some raped, some forced to marry, some forced to convert, or the gulags of North Korea, where 200,000 people are incarcerated, many for their religious beliefs.
On the positive side, the report found a number of examples of religious co-operation; however these were often the result of local initiatives rather than progress at the level of national governments.
But if we need to understand the role of faith – from Syria and Gaza to Nigeria and North Korea, from its impact in mid-term elections in the United States to its role in all the events which have flowed from the Arab Spring – we also need to understand the role of faith in shaping attitudes, values, and the legislation which flows form it.
Take this week in Parliament.
Tomorrow in the House of Lords we will reach the Committee Stage of the Falconer Bill on Assisted Dying/Euthanasia.
The question which politicians are wrestling with is “Is it possible to allow assisted suicide for a determined few, without putting much larger numbers of others at risk?” The Guardian newspaper said that the Bill,
“would create a new moral landscape. It is also, potentially, open to abuse”.
“Reshaping the moral landscape is no alternative to cherishing life and the living”.
The Daily Telegraph said:
“The more assisted dying is discussed, the more its risks will become apparent”.
Politicians have to navigate between principles and popular opinion. For instance a poll recently published by ComRes showed that support for assisted suicide has been at 73%, but as soon as the question is asked, “Would you support it if it jeopardized public safety?” that falls to 43%, which, of course, means that it is entirely evenly matched on both sides. As we know, the actual questions that are asked in those polls are the issue. Prudential judgement is required by Parliament; and how do you exercise prudential judgement if you have not been given any formation.
As a young Member of the House of Commons I was constantly told that I ought to support, on the basis of polling evidence, legislation against immigrants, to leave the European Union, and to reintroduce capital punishment, none of which I supported, because prudential judgement is ultimately more important than polls. That was what Mark Studdock famously learnt in C.S.Lewis’ novel, “That Hideous Strength.”
Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, on Tuesday, MPs debated whether it should be legal to permit the abortion of little girls on the basis of their gender.
Of course, if you accept the proposition that “it is my right to choose” there is no logical reason why you shouldn’t end the life of a little girl merely because she is a girl.
Gendercide is perfectly acceptable if choice trumps the very right to life itself.
That the three celebratory words “it’s a girl” have become a death sentence, and the three most lethal and dangerous words in the world, is neither here nor there.
If it’s just down to choice and, in time, a test is discovered which reveals our likely sexual orientation, why not abort for that too?
Is it just a matter of choice to take the life of a baby because it is mixed race or will be a colour which you don’t care for? It is, after all legal, to abort for “social grounds” (under which 98% of all abortions are done) and on grounds of “imperfection” – we end the lives of 90% of all babies with Down’s Syndrome and have aborted for things like cleft palate.
In wrestling with these complex ethical issues, Whether it’s the right to life; the use of capital punishment; the decision to go to war; the balance to be struck between national interests and international obligations; the priortising of resources; the treatment of the poor; the pursuit of justice and fairness; the responsibility to be good stewards of that with which have been entrusted; religious literacy is a sine qua non, a given.
Some people say that religion should be a purely private affair but, for instance, anyone who knows the story of William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade, knows that it was Christian ideals, and men and women formed in the Christian faith, which led to this, the first human rights campaign in our parliamentary history – led by William Wilberforce.
Religious faith can bring great benefits to society in so many respects.
I conclude by reflecting briefly on the blessings which I have received through the teachers who helped to form my own beliefs.
Last year I attended a celebration marking the half century of the existence of the Catholic grammar school where I was educated; and this year I spoke at the 50th anniversary of the College in Liverpool where I trained to teach and where I combined the study of history with the study of divinity – also obtaining the necessary qualification to teach religion..
As you walk through the door of my school fifty years later you still experience the same sense of community and the same commitment to providing a first class education for children from many diverse backgrounds which was there at its inception.
In common with many of my classmates I came off a council estate, my family having been rehoused from the East End. Mother was an Irish immigrant, my father a factory worker. It was a mixed marriage and no-one, from either side of the family, had ever entered higher education.
My own parents left school at 14 and came from backgrounds of acute poverty – but both knew the importance of a positive approach to learning at home; to encouraging the education of their children; to improving their own qualifications; and that, despite the vicissitudes of living in poor housing and in a flat on an overspill council estate, money alone was not the key to transforming the life chances of the next generation. I saw this same trump card used by many families in the inner city neighbourhoods of Liverpool that I represented for 25 years as a City Councillor or Member of Parliament.
My excellent primary school education was provided by Sisters of Mercy and along with all the rudiments of elementary education I was taught the basics of the Christian faith. Parochial life and school life were completely interwoven – and whether it was May or Corpus Christi Processions, preparing for first holy Communion or Confirmation, helping at church bazaars, joining the parish cub and scout packs, serving Sunday Mass, or raising money for children in the Congo, it was all part of the web and weave of that identity and culture.
We talk about the 3 Rs of reading writing and arithmetic, but for me the 4th R – of religious formation was more important than the other three combined.
As a nervous scholarship boy arriving for his first day in the first year of a brand new school planted by the Jesuits on the edge of east London and named for St. Edmund Campion – and confronted with subjects and discipline, mud, rugby and sport, in few of which I excelled – the school’s religious ethos provided the scaffold for my life – and, one day, for my death.
It was a Benedictine monk who offered the wry observation that, in the end, the real purpose of a Christian education is about teaching a person how to face death.
But, meanwhile, in facing life, the belief that every pupil is loved by God – even if they have been wounded by rejection or broken relationships; the cultivation of a respect for authority and ideals; the knowledge that when you fall short or make mistakes, it’s not the end – these should lie at the heart of faith based education.
We can take our cue from Thomas a Kempis who told us to put our love into action, not to throw in the towel at the first obstacle, but to persist in what we do: “At the Day of Judgment we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done…..Those who love stay awake when duty calls, wake up from sleep when someone needs help; those who love keep burning, no matter what, like a lighted torch. Those who love take on anything, complete goals, bring plans to fruition … But those who do not love faint and lie down on the job.”
Christian education must not deliver Gradgrind facts about History and English, Geography and Science with a bolt-on called religious study. The rich Christian seam must run through the whole curriculum, informing the whole spirit of teaching and subject, combining fides et ratio – faith and reason. Christianity is not about irrationality and as faith needs reason, so reason needs faith.
CS Lewis was right when he warned against educators become conditioners. In “The Abolition of Man” he rails against educators who have become “the conditioners” because they “make men without chests.” In a characteristically blunt turn of phrase he says that we treat our children like “geldings. We bid them be fruitful only to neuter them.” Lewis goes on to remark that “The task of modern education is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.”.” Lewis was right and we must be vigilant in guarding guard against the conditioners and the men without chests.
So, beyond the SATs and Contextual Added Value scores lies a more profound reason for wanting a Christian education for your children – it is the desire to know God, to know the man made in His image, to know how to live and how to die. We must always educate for our relationships with one another, with God and for the never ending struggle between vice and virtue.
Secular rationality and religious belief need one another and they must temper and civilise one another.
This creates the unity of life.
It is where the transcendent meets man. The challenge is to restore to the educational process the unity which saves it from dispersion amid the meandering of knowledge and acquired facts, and focuses on the human person in his or her integral, transcendent, historical identity. It’s where the Mystery of the Word made flesh and the mystery of man, his purpose and destiny, become clear.
Let me end by reminding you of the context in which religious education is taking place today.
According to the Children’s Society, 100,000 children run away from home every year. Save the Children says that 3.9 million children are living in poverty and that a staggering 1.7 million children are living in severe, persistent poverty in the UK-which is, after all, one of the richest countries in the world. Every day 4,000 children call Childline. Since it was founded in 1986, it has counselled more than a million children. 800,000 children have no contact with their fathers.
In 2005, Professor Mary Ann Glendon coined the pithy phrase ‘Traditions in Turmoil’ as the title for her analysis of the jettisoning of the ties which bind and the abandonment of duties. Consider for a moment the consequences of discarding values and virtues once taught by parents and re-enforced by educationalist and by civil society.
A faithless society has become an atomised, lonely, and selfish society; a faithless society has become a culturally diminished society; a faithless society has become a fatherless society and a broken family society. What has been done in the name of freedom has created a world of CCTV cameras; to high streets which have become no go areas after dark; and to binge drinking and shelves full of anti-depressants.
In 2006 a report by University College, London stated that ‘The UK has the worst problem with anti-social behaviour in Europe’. It has increasingly felt like a world rapidly going to hell in a basket. Are we truly freer or happier?
The Jewish sage Hillel was right when he said: “If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I?”
Are we only for ourselves? Do we find the face of God in each person we encounter; do we believe in the sanctity of each God-given life?
In 1830, Alex De Tocqueville visited America and he remarked that this highly motivated and successful society was animated by its religious belief and character. Without religion you can have a Big State but not a Big Society.
Without vibrant faith communities and the transmission of religious faith I doubt that you can have a functioning society at all.
Thank you for inviting me to address you conference. Religious literacy and religious education has a huge role to play in forming tomorrow’s citizens and in combatting the tide of religious intolerance which we face in confronting the world today.
Also see Rebecca Tinsley:
Tokyo and Seoul Speech to Promote the UN World Orphans Day Initiative: October 27th 2014.
To access powerpoint accompanying this talk, click here:
Speech to be delivered next week by David Alton in Tokyo and Seoul at a High Level Forum to establish UN World Orphans Day , organised by Park Joong-soon, Chairman of Soongsil Kongsaeng Welfare Foundation, and supported by Nippon Foundation.
Lord Alton will say:
We have gathered here with one clear objective: to shine a light on the plight of the world’s 150 million orphans and to encourage the creation of a designated United Nations’ World Orphans Day.
The purpose of such a day would be to encourage Governments and political leaders to prevent orphans, and other children in need of alternative care, suffering from discrimination, violence, poverty, disease and deprivation of education, and to promote the right to a fulfilled life.
Our Forum is meeting in two countries with extraordinary technological and communications capacity, cutting edge countries in our world’s $71 trillion global economy and, despite a whole host of competing issues and priorities, we share a common understanding that the orphaned child must vie for our attention above and before so many other worthy causes.
As we deliberate perhaps we should keep in mind the words of Nelson Mandela, himself an orphan, and who once said :”There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children…We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
My talk falls into two parts:
What is an orphan and who are they? and
What are our responsibilities towards orphaned children?
What is an orphan and who are they?
The word orphan is derived from the Greek “orfanos” (ὀρφανός) and is usually translated as a child whose parents are dead or who have abandoned the child permanently. The term is almost always used to describe a child although, technically, all of us who have witnessed the death of our parents have been orphaned. Some confusion has arisen because the word has been used in different ways by academics, NGOs, government and international agencies.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary suggests that an orphan is simply “a child bereaved of parents” while one legal definition, in use in the United States, says that a person is orphaned through the “death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents”.
We have a picture of orphans crafted by great novelists such as Charles Dickens, L.M.Montgomery or Mark Twain but Oliver Twist, Ann of Greengables and Tom Sawyer do not adequately characterise the twenty first century orphan.
Although the common English usage – and the one understood in many societies – suggests that an orphan is a child deprived of both parents, the definition which I will use throughout these remarks, is provided by UNICEF and who say that, for their purposes, an orphan is a child who has lost one or both parents – a paternal orphan being a child who has suffered the loss of their father; a maternal orphan being one who has suffered the loss of their mother; and a double orphan is a child who has seen both of their parents die.
UNICEF adopted this definition two decades ago as the AIDS pandemic swept away millions of parents.
Using this definition, in 2005 UNICEF estimated the number of orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean to be over 132 million (a figure which would increase by nearly 20 million in the next twenty years).
95% of these orphans are over the age of five and overwhelmingly they are living with a surviving parent, grandparent or other member of their extended family.
Clearly, this definition of what constitutes an orphan does not mean that 132 or 150 million children are without anyone to care for them but it does mean that 150 million orphaned children are vulnerable and that for them to fulfil life’s opportunities and their own human potential additional resources and support systems are likely to be required. In war zones, from Syria to Afghanistan, Iraq to Congo or Sudan, the number of children deprived of parents increases exponentially.
Two years ago, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, suggested that there are now 150 million orphans in the world. One year later, in 2014, UNICEF, in its report State of the World’s Children In Numbers: Every Child Counts, suggested that 17.8 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS while 3.3 million children are infected with HIV.
By way of illustration, in Uganda in 2002 14.6% of all children, some 1,731,000, were said to be orphans. 51.1% of these are AIDS orphans. By 2014 the total number of orphans in Uganda was 2,700,000 – 1,000,000 orphaned due to AIDS.
A combination HIV/AIDS and conflict in northern Uganda, fuelled by the depredations of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), still wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, has played a major part in the orphaning of children (see
The situation in countries like Uganda contrasts starkly with industrialised nations where the majority of children can expect to grow up while their parents are still alive (although increasing divorce rates and family breakdown do not necessarily guarantee contact with parents. In the UK over 800,000 children have no contact with their fathers and 68,110 children are in the care of local authorities. In the US half a million children are in the foster care system with around 100,000 awaiting adoption).
The data in the 2014 report: Every Child Counts underlines the importance of gathering reliable information and is crucial in enabling the effective championing of children’s rights and in organising the appropriate interventions and targeting of resources. In Uganda, for instance, the same data suggests that significant numbers of orphans – perhaps as many as 30% – do not attend primary school.
Elsewhere in Africa, I have visited Darfur and South Sudan – where the situation is even worse than Uganda. Recent violence has displaced 800,000 people and UNICEF, estimates that 17% of South Sudan’s entire child population is without one or both parents.
Data is not by itself a change-maker but it does enable those charged with the responsibility to identify the needs, to monitor the progress which is made and to hold to account those who wield power.
The downside of reeling off statistics and reams of data is that it can sometimes prevent us from seeing the human beings caught up in a tidal wave of misery.
Take the consequences of conflict.
Children who are caught in the cross fire of war-torn nations face bereavement, displacement, and all the physical and psychological trauma which accompanies such violence. Many are abducted and swept up into militias, becoming child soldiers. It is estimated that globally there are 300,000 child soldiers.
Other children are made to work for unscrupulous employers who pay them a subsistence pittance. They are perhaps lucky in comparison with those who become slave labour, drawn into a life of street crime or who are trafficked into prostitution or sexual gratification. The International Labour Organisation estimates that around 153 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced into child labour.
Conflict leads to populations being dispersed and to the creation of vast numbers of refugees. UNHCR (The UN High Commissioner for Refugees) estimates that 51.2 million people are refugees and that of these around 25.6 million (50%) are under 18 years of age.
It is now a full year since UNICEF said that the number of children forced to flee Syria had reached one million – which they described as “a shameful milestone” – adding that a further 2 million children are displaced within the country.
The UN says children now make up half of all refugees fleeing Syria. About three-quarters of those children are under 11. Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that “The youth of Syria are losing their homes, their family members and their futures. Even after they have crossed a border to safety, they are traumatised, depressed and in need of a reason for hope.”
Just 118,000 of the refugee children have been able to continue in some sort of education, and a fifth have received psychosocial counselling.
Save the Children’s regional director for the Middle East, Roger Hearn, says “It is appalling that the world has stood and watched as one million children have been forced from their country, terrified, traumatised and in some cases orphaned.”
Natural disasters also leave children without parents.
In 2013, in the Philippines, 1.7 million children were seriously affected by Typhoon “Haiyan”.
On January 12th 2010 an earthquake with a 7.0 magnitudes struck Haiti and Port-au-Prince became a scene of shocking desolation. Even before the quake Haiti had roughly 30,000 abandoned children already in its institutions, many of them unregistered. Reports described troubling signs of neglect with unfed children, babies left unattended and unsanitary conditions.
The Haitian government estimates that 80% of their orphans have at least one living parent. In the aftermath of the quake a group from Idaho were arrested after they took custody of 33 children, intending to take them to the Dominican Republic. It emerged that all of the children had at least one living parent. Moving children across borders is not only illegal, but prevents UNICEF and NGOs from being able to reunite families.
On March 11, 2011, a terrible earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and it left around 200 children without either of their parents and a further 1,200 children lost one of their parents. Most of those orphans were taken in by relatives but some went to orphanages – which may culturally be seen as preferable to adoption.
Elsewhere in Asia there are some 350 million children living in absolute poverty; many are orphans.
India has more orphans than anywhere else in the world. – an estimated 25 million orphans. The vast majority are from the Dalit, or untouchable, caste. India’s 250 million Dalits are, according to India’s former Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, “a blot on humanity.” Their status is like that of lepers. Parents, faced with another mouth to feed, commonly abandon their children, leaving them to live on the streets or to take refuge in what may pass for an orphanage but forced to work as scavengers or prostitutes. Many children suffer abysmally (see http://davidalton.net/2014/02/17/make-caste-history-international-conference-on-dalits-and-caste-discrimination-london-february-2014/)
In China there are an estimated half a million orphans and unregulated orphanages are exceedingly common. Around 85% of orphans and abandoned children are abandoned in rural areas with no access to state-run orphanages in urban centres. Private citizens, without adequate resources and with no legal standing, have filled the vacuum – many motivated by religious impulses and perhaps modelled on the altruism of Gladys Aylward’s Inn of Sixth Happiness (see http://davidalton.net/2013/05/11/gladys-aylward-the-little-woman-and-chinas-inn-of-the-sixth-happiness/.)
These safe havens are unregistered, and the State tends to turn a blind eye but their lack of legal status means that the orphans in their care are not always able to access education, health and employment opportunities.
In 2013 China Daily reported that official statistics revealed that only 64 of the country’s 2,853 counties have child welfare homes and that the Ministry of Civil Affairs had promised to help 500 more build facilities by the end of 2015.
This came in the aftermath of an incident in Rongcheng in Jieyang, southern Guangdong province, when the local civil affairs bureau not only failed to provide shelter for the orphaned children, but also tried to conceal this by pretending it was looking after orphans in Guizhou, south west China.
They died of carbon monoxide poisoning, apparently after lighting charcoal to keep warm. How right was the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when he said
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”
We are all familiar with the stories from China where the coercive one child policy has led to the abandonment of millions of little girls. This sex-selection gendercide led to orphanages filled with little girls. These were the ones who had not been aborted (see http://davidalton.net/2013/04/07/chinas-one-child-policy-official-figures-reveal-that-336-million-women-have-been-aborted-37-million-more-men-than-women-as-campaign-of-gendercide-unbalances-the-population/)
Prenatal testing and sex-selective abortions have changed the face of Chinese orphanages and it is thought that around 90-98% of abandoned children have medical needs and disabilities. Many fewer adoptive parents come forward to adopt an orphan with a disability and the climate for international adoption of orphans has radically changed.
Sometimes international adoptions have been used as a scam by the unscrupulous. International adoption of orphans raises ethical and social issues – but leaving an orphan to be exploited or abused may prove to be a worse ethical choice.
Stories abound of orphanages being created for 24 hours to entice overseas visitors – some desperate to adopt a child. Some are milch cows – a source of easily acquired gain – usually a “front” to obtain money for the families who own the orphanage, which is simply a money-making business.
Sometimes these businesses are a front for human traffickers or racketeers who in the most extreme cases simply sell children. Journalists have reported on Cambodian children bought from their parents and sold on at significant profit to Westerners who wish to adopt.
China and Russia have also curtailed international adoptions.
In the case of Russia, international adoptions have become part of the new Cold War, in part prompted by US criticism of human rights abuses in Russia and two high profile tit-for-tat cases, one involving the death of a three year old Russian boy in Texas and the other a seven year old boy sent back to Russia.
In the 1990s, international adoption exploded in both Russia and China. Research from the UK’s Newcastle University suggests that between 2000 and 2010 410,000 children were adopted by citizens of 27 countries. For several decades there was a steady growth in international adoptions but since 2004 the number of international adoptions has reduced by around 50%. High-profile adoptions by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie from Cambodia and Madonna from Malawi have caused countries to think twice about permitting international adoption but this does not mean that the children in need of homes and loving families are better off being left in an institution or trying to survive on the streets. In the first instance more support should be provided – and negative cultures challenged – to encourage indigenous families to adopt.
The United States is the top destination for adopting children. The US State Department says that 8,668 were adopted in 2012, down from a peak of 22,884 in 2004. Newcastle University say that in the top 23 nations there were 23,626 international adoptions in 2011 — down from 45,299 in 2004. In 1985 South Korea recorded the highest ever adoption rate with 1.3 of every 100 children born sent overseas for adoption – but the Republic of Korea, along with many other nations has changed its attitude towards international adoption.
Yet, as China reduced international adoptions, the number of children filling its orphanages increases — China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs say the number reached 92,000 in 2011, almost a 50% rise from 2004.
In Australia the University of New South Wales Social Policy Research Centre say that over the past decade more than half a million Chinese orphans have been assisted by UNSW research projects. The Centre has led 28 research projects focusing on welfare provision to disadvantaged children in China; including children affected by HIV, orphans in rural and urban areas, children with disabilities, and children at risk of abuse and neglect. Other research projects include the East Asian Welfare Model, social support to older people, people with disabilities and poverty alleviation in China.
In 2013 they were involved with the publication of “Caring for Orphaned Children in China”. Its authors, Shang Xiaoyuan and Karen R. Fishera, summarise more than a decade’s research arguing that a mixed welfare system, in which state provision supplements family and community care, is an effective way to improve support for orphaned children; that Government needs to take responsibility to guarantee orphans’ rights and support family networks to enable children to grow up in their own communities. The authors say that China must develop a child welfare system which meets the rights of orphans to live and thrive with other children in a family.
The work of the Australian Social Policy Research Centre has been a good deed in a nasty world. It contributed to the first national census of China’s orphans, and they believe it has led to a significant improvement in the living standards of a half a million vulnerable children. The census found the children, many of them in rural areas, were receiving little or no social assistance. The Centre says that the Chinese authorities took the work seriously and that the new Department of Child Welfare now ensures that all orphans receive financial support for basic needs such as food, clothing and education.
Perhaps the Australian initiative in China may one day be replicated in North Korea.
I have been there on four occasions and for the past ten years have chaired the British Parliamentary all-party Committee on North Korea. In “Building Bridges – Is there hope for North Korea?”(2013) I record the stories of North Korean escapees, some of whom, like Shin Dong Hyok, escaped from prison camps. Born in Kaechon Internment Camp (Camp 14) he lived with his mother, Jan Hye-gyung until he was twelve, rarely being allowed to see his father, Shin Gyung-sub. Tortured in the camp at age 14 Shin was forced to watch as his mother and brother were executed.
Many North Koreans were orphaned during the famine (the Arduous March), between 1994 and 1997 . It claimed millions of lives. Children were the most adversely affected. The World Health Organisation reported death rates for children at 93 of every 1000, while those of infants were cited at 23 of every thousand.
The famine led to hundreds of thousands living on the streets as “street swallows”. One witness to my Parliamentary Committee, Timothy Choo, who lived on the streets where he saw all of his friends die described how these abandoned children, known as Kotjebi, subsisted by begging and by eating wild vegetables, bark and grass roots. School children in North Korea are 3 to 8 cm shorter than their counterparts in South Korea with stunted growth and malnutrition affecting around 45% of North Korean children under the age of five.
The kotjebi population is reported to persist and in 2013 Japanese Asia Press reported that in North and South Hwanghae Provinces more than 10,000 people had died of famine. In the same year Britain’s Independent newspaper published a story claiming that there had been cases of cannibalism.
In February 2014 a United Nations Commission of Inquiry described the abuse of human rights in North Korea as “without parallel” stating that more than 200,000 North Koreans, including children, are imprisoned in camps where many perish from forced labour, inadequate food, and abuse and torture by guards (see http://davidalton.net/2014/07/24/british-parliament-debates-the-united-nations-commission-of-inquiry-report-into-crimes-against-humanity-in-north-korea/ )
What are our responsibilities towards orphaned children?
The well-being of our children has always been a universally cherished aspiration which crosses continents and cultures and unites the great faiths.
Ancient Civilizations had contradictory attitudes. In Athens it was regarded as a duty of the State to provide an education up until eighteen years of age for the child of any citizen who had been killed in war.
In his Laws Plato said that “Orphans should be placed under the care of public guardians. Men should have a fear of the loneliness of orphans and of the souls of their departed parents. A man should love the unfortunate orphan of whom he is guardian as if he were his own child. He should be as careful and as diligent in the management of the orphan’s property as of his own or even more careful still.”
However, infanticide was common both in Greece and ancient Rome and a high view of the orphaned children of warriors did not extend to the unwanted child.
It is estimated that around one third of all Roman children died before they reached ten years of age. Babies were often rejected if they were illegitimate, disabled, female, or regarded as a burden on their families. By contrast, the Egyptians forbade infanticide.
In China there is a long history of infanticide based on sex-selection. Baby girls would be exposed to the elements. Orphaned males, however, would be adopted solely to perform the duties of ancestor worship.
In Africa, the Ibo people of Nigeria would bury a baby alive if the mother had died in childbirth. The baby suffered a similar death if its father died.
The opposition to these practices has often come from those who have a higher view of humanity.
Confucius who was, perhaps the world’s first great humanist, with some traditions suggesting that he was himself orphaned at an early age. In “The Great Learning” he dwells upon the position of the family as the foundation of society and of its proper regulation as the basis for government. Confucius held that human beings may be taught, improved and perfected; that personal and communal virtue should be cultivated. Confucian ethics and precepts includes rén, – which requires altruism and humaneness towards others – and holds in contempt those who fail to show due regard for others.
Confucius defined rén as “wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others” while another phrase provides a golden rule, as valid today as it was in 479 BC, when he admonished us “not to do to others as you would not wish done to yourself.”
In considering how we respond to the plight of the orphaned child this is surely good advice.
For Buddhists, from the earliest times, the care of orphans, featured prominently in the life of their monasteries – which became the orphanages of their land. Buddhist philosophy emphasises interconnectedness which requires us to exhibit love and compassion.
Buddhism, Hindusim and Jainism all place emphasis on the cultivation of generosity to those less privileged – not least because of its effect in purifying and transforming the attitudes and mind of the giver.
For Hindus, Sewa – service to others without seeking reward – is regarded as an adherent’s duty in life. Shinto belief sees humans as children of the kami (God) and owing their life to God and their ancestors. In Shinto the human being is simply a harmonious part of nature. Clearly, if any human being – the orphaned child included – is unable to harmonise with others it threatens the well-being and cohesion of the wider society.
In Islam the welfare of orphans is a recurring theme in the Holy Qur’an with many verses encouraging good treatment of orphans: “that which you spend for good (must go) to parents and near kindred and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer. And whatsoever good you do, lo! Allah is Aware of it.” (Qur’an 2:215)
The Prophet Muhammad had an orphaned childhood, losing both his parents by the age of six, and this features in early verses of the Qur’an:
“Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter?” (Qur’an 93:6) while many Muslims believe that by befriending and caring for an orphan they are befriending and caring for the Prophet himself.
The Qur’an insists: “Treat not the orphan with harshness” (Qur’an 93:9)
When an orphan is adopted, Islam requires guardians to protect the identity of the orphan, insisting that the child keeps its birth parents’ names, preserving their heritage and connections with their extended family.
The Jewish faith focusses on the protection of the poor, weak, foreigners, widows and orphans. The Pslamist writes (Psalm 127:3) “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD…”
The prophet Isaiah tells the people: “Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). While Jeremiah says that it is pleasing to God “if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow” (Jeremiah 7:5-6).
Throughout the Bible orphans are represented as helpless and requiring our support. The Pentateuch commands the believer to render justice to orphans. The harshest punishment is reserved for those who do not while God Himself is termed “the father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5)
A central tenet of Christian belief is that every human being is “Imago Dei” made in the image of God and of unique and intrinsic worth. Jesus’ injunction “Let the children come to Me ….. whatever you do for the least of one these my brethren, you have done it to Me” has informed Christian social activism, both Catholic and Protestant.
St.James sums up the Christian faith as “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world “(James 1:27).
In the earliest period of Christianity Eusebius records that Origen was adopted after his father was martyred while Severus, a Palestinian Christian, made the care of orphans and widows his special concern while hospitals specifically for orphans and poor children were built by Christians such as St. Ephraem, St. Basil, and St. John Chrysostom In the Apostolic Constitutions, “Orphans as well as widows are always commended to Christian love.”.
These universal religious impulses have been easily incorporated into secular humanist thinking. In the twentieth century religious and secular thinking combined to codify our obligations towards children, most particularly in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – UNCRC.
The Convention was adopted on 20 November 1989 and had its origins in The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted thirty years before, in 1959.
But that declaration had its genesis in the work of the British social reformer and inspirational woman, Eglantyne Jebb who, in 1923, created the first charter of children’s rights. She had been arrested and fined for producing and distributing a leaflet entitled “A Starving Baby and Our Blockade has Caused This” which drew attention to the plight of children on the losing side of the First World War.
In founding the charity, Save the Children, Jebb insisted that the charity must “not be content to save children from the hardships of life – it must abolish these hardships; nor think it suffices to save them from immediate menace – it must place in their hands the means of saving themselves and so of saving the world.”
She was a great humanitarian who said that “the only international language is a child’s cry” and that “All wars, disastrous or victorious, are waged against children.” Raised as an Anglican she created alliances between the religious and the secular even persuading Pope Benedict XV to collect money for her cause on Holy Innocents Day and in 1920 to issue an encyclical – Annus Iam Plenus – on the plight of children in Central Europe – naming and urging a generous response for the first time a non-Catholic organisation.
The Pope said “We cannot desist from offering a public tribute of praise to the society entitled the “Save the Children Fund,” which has exerted all possible care and diligence in the collection of money, clothing, and food.”
Benedict appealed for an urgent response to a Europe where, 100 years ago, the “most frightful and disgraceful massacres have been perpetrated” and where numberless children had been orphaned and wives left widowed.
To achieve her objectives Jebb also created ecumenical networks, working particularly closely with the Quakers, the Society of Friends.
Her Declaration consisted of five criteria, which were adopted in Geneva in 1923 by the International Save the Children Union, namely that:
1. Every child should have the necessary means to develop materially and spiritually;
2. Every child should be have access to food and medical help; and, if hampered by developmental problems, given help; if delinquent, given the chance to start again; and if an orphan, provided with shelter and succoured.
3. Every child should be given absolute priority and relief in times of distress;
4. Every child should be protected against exploitation and enabled to earn a living when old enough to do so; and
5. Every child should be encouraged to understand and fulfil his or her potential and to see their obligations to humanity and the common good.
These principles were codified as non-mandatory guidelines in the World Child Welfare Charter and endorsed by the League of Nations in 1924.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the newly formed United Nations which stated in its Charter that its primary purpose was “ to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights….and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” also recognised the acute vulnerability of millions of war scarred children and in 1954 the General Assembly proclaimed Universal Children’s Day.
By 1959 the United Nations had amplified Eglantyne Jebb’s five criteria and these would form the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was adopted by the General Assembly. It became international law in 1990 – although, significantly, the United States, which signed the Convention, did not ratify it.
The Convention comprises fifty four articles and these may be summarised as the right to survival; the right to develop to the fullest; the right to participate in family, cultural and social life; and the right to be protected from abuse, exploitation or harmful substances. Its central pillars are the right to life, survival and development; the child’s right to be heard and respected; and to have their best interests promoted.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors compliance with the Convention and annually the Committee submits a report to the General Assembly and its chairman delivers a statement on their work and the challenges with which they are faced. Those who have ratified the Convention may be held to account by the Committee.
The Convention asserts that children should be able to grow in a stable environment under the responsibility of their parents. It states that children should not be separated from their mothers especially during the pre-natal and postnatal period. Yet, as a result of war, natural disasters, disease and the absence of parents many of these admirable aims are honoured only in their breach.
However, both the Convention and the 1990 World Summit for Children were undoubtedly historic landmarks. The 1990 World Summit for Children was, at that time, the biggest gathering of world leaders ever held and in 2001 Kofi Annan, described it as a catalyst which galvanised “political commitment behind the Convention on the Rights of the Child, now the world’s most widely embraced human rights instrument.”
In his 2001 report, ‘We the Children: Meeting the promises of the World Summit for Children’, he rightly said that “there is no task more important than building a world in which all of our children can grow up to realize their full potential, in health, peace and dignity.”
The 2001 Report summed up its ten principal objectives in slogans which Eglantyne Jebb would have recognised : Leave No Child Out; Put Children First; Care For Every Child; Fight HIV/AIDS; Stop Harming and Exploiting Children; Listen to Children; Educate Every Child; Protect Children from War; Protect the Earth for Children; Fight Poverty: and Invest in Children.
Simultaneously, the Millennium Development Goals, adumbrated by world leaders in 2000, charged UNICEF with meeting six of the eight goals which apply to children among which were the need to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly because of its impact on children, a reduction in child mortality, and the achievement of universal primary education..
This last Goal was one which, in 2012, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, took the opportunity, to highlight by insisting that every child should have access to schooling and education and that education should be used to promote peace, respect and good stewardship of the world in which we live.
As part of its mandate to “save succeeding generations” Universal Children’s Day was created by the UN as an annual event, staged on or around November 20th, to promote children’s welfare.
The United Nations has also designated four other days which highlight specific challenges facing the world’s young people: June 4th is International Day of Innocent Children: Victims of Aggression highlighting children as victims of violence and war; June 12th is World Day Against Child Labour; August 12th is International Youth Day and draws attention to cultural and legal issues affecting children. October 11th is The International Day of the Girl Child, promoting the improvement of the human rights and opportunities open to girls.
There is no day dedicated to the world’s 150 million orphans. Given that our children are our most valuable resource, and the one sure hope for our world’s future, it’s high time that there was.
David Alton was for 18 years a member of the House of Commons and since 1997 has been an Independent member of the House of Lords. He is Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University and is author of twelve books:
www.davidalton.net firstname.lastname@example.org .
Orphaned Street Children: additional note from David Alton with some background stories from the work of Jubilee Campaign
With Danny Smith I was one of the founders of Jubilee Campaign, which has campaigned for street children and I was founding chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Committee for Street Children.
A street child is a term used to refer to children who live on the streets. Definitions of street children vary; the most commonly accepted set of definitions, attributed to UNICEF, defines street children into two main categories:
1. Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. Most go home at the end of the day and contribute their earnings to their family. They may be attending school and retain a sense of belonging to a family. Because of the economic fragility of the family, these children may eventually opt for a permanent life on the streets.
2. Children of the street that actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment). Family ties may exist but are tenuous and are maintained only casually or occasionally. 1
It was in the early 90’s that the phenomenon of street children started to emerge as a specific category and there were unconfirmed though widely publicised reports that there were 100 million street children worldwide. There were no accurate statistics and no breakdown of that figure was ever provided.I am indebted to Danny Smith for what follows.
Street Children were classified as follows:
Children on the Street: The largest group, this comprised of children who work in the street, with fairly strong contact, and whose income was essential to the survival of their family.
Children of the Street: With little family contact, these include runaways; abused, alienated children from deprived and poverty-stricken families who are unable to maintain normal family units. They sleep in doorways, alleys, under bridges, in railway stations; survive by begging and petty theft: while some strive for educational standards and employment, relatively few succeed without assistance. Drifting into crime, drug gangs and prostitution, these children are victims that can’t escape this vicious spiral of violence and destitution.
Children in the Street: The smallest group covers orphans and abandoned children whose parents could have died from war, illness, Aids or have simply been unable to look after their child because of family circumstances. These children live on their own without family relationships.
Recyclers: Although not a formal categorisation, recyclers survive on the rubbish dumps or discared items their find on the streets. The children of recyclers spend day and night on the streets within the family groups. They survive by selling papers and materials, and in some countries, live on rubbish dumps or on the streets. They are seen as a marginalised group, the scum of society. In Colombia, the Procuraduria identified two types: those who have a room and may own a horse and cart (known as ‘Zorros’). Others live on the streets, sleeping in either a house made of cardboard boxes or in the carts they use for collecting the rubbish.
Researching Street Children in Brazil
In 1991, the term ‘street children’ wasn’t in general usage but after learning that three children a day were being killed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, we decided that this was the best place to start to learn about street children. Danny Smith and and I both travelled to Brazil and wrote about the plight and even the killing of street children..
We were told that children had left or been driven from their homes because of the breakdown of traditional family units, with a surge from the country to the city was causing turmoil in urban areas.
The cities in Brazil – and around the world – have seen their population continue to explode in growth.
In 1950, there was just one megacity with a population of more than 10 million: New York. By 2013, there were twenty seven megacities, and for the first time in our history, half the world’s current population of 7 billion live in towns and cities. And this is set to rise.
The UN predicts that these megacities will house 70 percent of the world’s population by 2050 – 6.4 billion people out of a total 9.2 billion.
The breakdown of family units and the move from the rural countryside to urban areas has been identified as the main reasons for the explosive growth of abandoned children and street children.
Children end up on the streets for a variety of reasons. Often, children have no choice but the streets because they are abandoned, orphaned, or thrown out of their homes. Some street children choose to live on the streets because the conditions at home are so bad; they may be mistreated, neglected, or their families cannot provide them with basic necessities. Many children seek work on the streets to increase their family earnings so they can survive. The following is a list of causes identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the creation of street children:2
• Family breakdown
• Armed conflict
• Natural and man-made disasters
• Physical and sexual abuse
• Exploitation by adults
• Dislocation through migration
• Urbanization and overcrowding
• HIV/AIDS3, 4
Experts predict that this huge growth would occur primarily in developing countries. Time Magazine reported that six of the world’s ten fastest-growing megacities are in South Asia, in countries least equipped to provide transportation, housing, water and sewers. Asia and Africa, now more than two-thirds rural, would be half urban by 2025. The number of abandoned children is expected to double, with child exploitation on the increase. This would contribute further to the sense of injustice and inequality among the world’s poor and dispossessed that has driven extremists to seek violent solutions to the problem.
With more than half the world’s people moving from the countryside to the cities, how they adjust to their new habitat will come to define the twenty-first century.
Juanito the Street Boy who met the British Prime Minister
Danny Smith described how, on the first night in Brazil, he met a group of abandoned street children and got to know them during the visit. One of the boys was called Juanito. He was tall, gangly, a loner, reserved, often remote. He had a sister but very little contact with his family, and didn’t know where they were, and was probably an orphan. He seemed tough and streetwise but tender, vulnerable, like a young adult who had missed childhood.
Juanito visited the Sao Martinho Mission, a Catholic shelter in the city, and for awhile it was the one constant in his life. Like Juanito, all the street kids that we talked to wanted the same thing: a home; someone to care for them; to finish school; get a job; settle down.
Juanito wanted to be a cook and spent much of his time in the shelter’s kitchen. But he had problems fitting in and may have had learning difficulties. When we asked him what his ambition was, he replied wistfully, ‘To get a girlfriend but I’m too ugly.’
Juanito was one of the boys selected to perform a traditional Brazilian dance for John Major, the only head of state to visit a street children’s shelter (Sao Martinho) during the Earth Summit in Rio Juanito was one of the boys selected to perform a traditional Brazilian dance for John Major, the only Head of State, to visit a children’s shelter, Sao Martinho, during the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Sometime during the festivities, Juanito drew close, oblivious to protocol, extended his hand and in a flash of spontaneity, Mr Major clasped the palm of the boy who lived on the streets.
That moment was to become a tragic television epitaph. Four months after the encounter, Juanito was dead. He was shot in the head and in the chest near his sister’s home in the Favela de Nova Iguacu. We were passed a copy of the police file which we copied and sent to the Prime Minister and the All Party Group on Street Children. Mr Major wrote back and said, ‘Juanito’s death is tragic news, but I am glad that the Brazilian Foreign Minister has promised to look into the circumstances. Our Embassy in Brazil will follow the investigation closely.’
After pressing the Brazilan Embassy in London for information, we were eventually told that Juanito may have inadvertently annoyed a local gangster in the slums. The suspected killer died soon after in mysterious circumstances and that’s where the police investigation ended.
Mr Major never forgot Juanito and wrote about his encounter in the House of Commons Magazine:
I met Juanito at a shelter for Street Children in Rio de Janeiro. He told me that he first took to the streets when he was eight years old to earn money for his family. By day, he would shine shoes and wash windscreens. By night, he and his friends would sleep in doorways and watch out for police patrols. Juanito was one of the lucky ones. He had been helped by the team at the Sao Martinho Shelter funded by Jubilee which offers children a more stable environment and helps many find a better life. When I visited Sao Martinho, during the Earth Summit in 1992, Juanito welcomed me with a dance. I gave him an Aston Villa shirt. Four months later, Junaito was killed, shot twice. It was a Sunday morning and he had gone out to buy some ice. He was not more than seventeen years old. Juanito’s murder seemed to be without motive. He was not thought to be mixed up with gangs or drugs. He was just a random victim of the senseless violence which children face on the streets of Brazil and other countries around the world.
Violence in Brazil: the Candelaria Massacre
Fernando Meirelles’ critically acclaimed film City of God has been hailed as a classic of world cinema and chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 greatest films of all time. The film’s violent portrayal of life inside a favela isn’t a Hollywood concoction. In 1993 we were given a compelling and graphic first-hand account of life on Rio’s mean streets by our Brazilian partner, Roberto dos Santos, the leader of the Sao Martinho Shelter in Rio.
It started in the summer of 1993, Wednesday 21 July. Police broke up a fight amongst street children over a box of glue. One of the boys was grabbed and bundled into a police car and beaten. The police car was pelted with stones. ‘You’ll regret this. We’re gonna get you,’ a policeman yelled out.
Two days later, at midnight, three unmarked cars pulled up near the Candelaria Cathedral, a popular hang-out for the kids who slept on the nearby streets. Roberto told us, ‘Six gunmen stepped out of the cars and headed for the sleeping children. They circled the kids and then opened fire at point-blank range. It wasn’t a killing it was an assassination. The killers shot the children in the eyes and in the head. Seven children died, one survived, but passed away later in hospital. Two boys were seized by the gunmen and taken back to their cars.
They were executed and their bodied dumped at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.’
Wagner dos Santos was one of the street boys who slept in Candelaria. He was grabbed by one of the off-duty policemen and shoved into a car. Forced to lie down with two other kids, one of the policemen sat on him and made a chilling threat. ‘You are going to die.’ He was shot twice and lost consciousness. Hours later, Wagner awoke to find himself in a park with his two friends lying dead beside him. Wagner recovered and was the first to enter a Witness Protection Program after deciding to give evidence against the policemen implicated in the killing.
The killings made news headlines around the world. The President of Brazil flew to Rio and launched an investigation into the massacre.
In Britain, the Parliamentary Group for Street Children were active. Roberto told us that our campaign had played a part in influencing public opinion in Brazil and mobilising international concern and this was echoed later in a message from Downing Street to us which said, ‘It is thanks to you that the urgency and importance of street children has acquired recognition.’
Rescuing orphaned and abandoned children in India
In 1996, Jubilee Campaign was introduced to Reverend Devaraj, an evangelical church leader, in India. Deveraj had spent over three years helping boys hooked on drugs and consequently learned that their sisters and mothers were enslaved prostitutes. This contact gave him unprecedented access amongst the girls and women who cruised the back streets and alleys of Kamathipura, India’s largest sex district. Many children from the area wanted to get away but he had nowhere to take them.
Bombay’s population numbered over twenty million. Deveraj estimated that the Kamatipura area was home to about 20,000 prostitutes while about three thousand girls lived on Fourteenth Lane.
The women in the area trusted Devaraj and through him Jubilee learned their stories.
• Sharlinka wasn’t sure how old she was. She was enticed from Andhra Pradesh with the offer of a job but was sold to a brothel-owner. She’d been held captive for about five years. ‘I had to work hard,’ she told us. ‘The men were fat, old and smelly. I was forced to do some disgusting things. I wasn’t allowed out for three years.’
• Another young girl with sad eyes said, ‘I’m from Calcutta. I don’t have any relatives, only a mother, but I’m not sure where she is now. I drifted around and ended up in Bombay. I was caught one night by several men. They told me they’d find work for me. I’d have a good life but I was sold into slavery.’
• There were several Nepali girls with pale olive skin, soft features and long angular bodies. Girls were trafficked from Nepal by underworld gangs with police collusion. They were held in a slave market and brothel-owners visited the auction to buy the girls. From Bombay, some of the girls – and boys – were dispatched to Goa, now India’s most popular tourist resort.
The girls sold to the brothels worked to pay off their debt. Customers paid the brothel and the girls survived on tips. This system of debt bondage kept them in virtual slavery. The girls were held in appalling circumstances, beaten and abused, with little opportunity of ever being liberated from this vicious circle of servitude. In many cases, the girls had no idea when their debt would be paid off – if ever – and were resigned to a life of enslavement. Girls charged Rs 50 (£1) and Rs 250 (£5) and yes, everything was available with no limits to these sexual encounters.
Bombay’s red light district had a heavy gang influence and there were many incidents of shoot-outs and stabbings.
Suicides were spoken of factually. Very few got away. Anyone caught trying to escape was beaten severely when they returned. One girl, Mina, tried to jump out of a top floor window but fell and broke her back. She had been caged for seven years and forbidden to leave her room. Usually the girls are confined for two to three years before they’re allowed out on their own.
Deveraj told Danny there was a girl he wanted me to meet and we searched the alleys and dark, narrow passageways of Kamathipura trying to locate her. It was late at night but the streets were crowded, and dirty.
Asha’s mother was a prostitute who lived on Fourteenth Lane. Asha grew up in a cramped squalid room, virtually a cage, where her mother serviced between ten and twenty-five customers a day.
When her mother died, there were no time for tears. The brothel-owners moved a young Nepali girl into the cage, and Asha and her younger siblings, were dumped in the street outside the brothel where her mother had worked. A make-shift canvas hut granted sanctuary from the scorching summer heat and the driving monsoon rain.
The young urchin family ate leftovers given to them by friendly prostitutes, scrounged scraps from the rubbish dump, and begged for paisa from passing trade. Their survival was a remarkable record of resilience amidst grinding despair and degradation.
The brothel-owners kept an eye on Asha and her sister, as, inevitably, the children of prostitutes always followed their parents into the sex industry. The word on the street was that Asha’s mother’s boy friend, a taxi driver, lied and said that he was her father, and was negotiating a deal with one of the brothel-owners, expecting about £600 from the sale of this beautiful young girl. That’s a small fortune, and money he just couldn’t refuse.
The turning point in her life came when she met Deveraj and told him that she wanted to escape. His reply was, ‘Have faith. With God everything is possible.’ But with each passing day the tension was mounting. She was repulsed by the sexual remarks from local men but there was no escape, nowhere to hide. Every time she spotted the chubby church worker, she chased after him and tugged at his sleeve. ‘Uncle!’ she’d call out. ‘When will you take me away?’
Asha wanted to leave Kamathipura’s Fourteenth Lane and said, ‘I want to leave. I feel dirty here. I’ll never forget this street but all the memories are bad. I don’t like the way the men look at me. Some men want me to go with them. They say they’ll look after my brother and sister. I sensed the danger. Every day it’s getting harder for me to live here. I know I can’t fight them forever. It’s a question of time. I want to leave here but I have nowhere to go. No one wants me except the brothel owners.’
Danny talked to Deveraj about rescuing Asha and developed a plan to establish a residential home outside the city where orphaned and abandoned children of prostitutes could be taken. It seemed an insignificant gesture given the scale of the problem but if we couldn’t rescue Asha, it’s clear she would be condemned to a life-sentence of sex slavery.
Asha was rescued along with four other girls. This was the start of a remarkable rescue mission as several homes have been built and hundreds of girls have been rescued. The work has been supported by Jubilee’s supporters but also people such as Olivia and George Harrison, and Billy Connolly. Recently the Hard Rock Café have become important sponsors. of the project Asha herself has grown, married and has a son. She works for Jubilee Campaign and has herself rescued other children.
AIDS Orphans Home in India for children from Mumbai’s sex industry
Danny Smith’s daughter Rachel had become a pen pal with one of the girls in Jubilee’s homes in India and regularly donated some of her pocket money to the work. When she learned that we wanted to start a new home for AIDS orphans, she decided to raise funds through a sky dive. Rachel’s jump raised a phenomenal £75,000 from generous Jubilee supporters that secured matched funding from the Laing Trust here in the UK, and from a similar arrangement through Ann Buwalda/Jubilee Campaign in the US. As a result, we secured all the funds to build this new home and its operating costs for three years. It was a powerful demonstration of the difference we can make with imagination and commitment.
The local municipality in the red light area were impressed with Deveraj’s work and offered us premises to operate a night shelter for the orphaned and abandoned children of prostitutes. The shelter was ideally located in the centre of Bombay’s sex industry and would provide prostitutes’ children with a safe haven at night, the moment of greatest risk. The children were looked after and encouraged to attend school.
The property required refurbishment but before we released funds for the work to be completed, Danny asked Deveraj how we could be sure it would be used for those at greatest risk? The question was answered – like many others – with a telephone call.
Baby for sale for £150 in 2000
There’s a baby for sale in one of the brothels. She’s about to be sold,’ the man said. ‘Come quickly or it’ll be too late.’
The nine-month old girl’s father worked as a street labourer, the poorest of the poor, in Bombay’s bustling vegetable market. Tragedy struck when the child’s mother died. In turmoil, unable to cope, and with intense financial pressures, the father took his daughter to Kamathipura, the centre of the sex industry.
The man toured the brothels and in a moment of madness, offered the baby for sale. The news caused a sensation as the brothel owners bargained over the innocent child. The man was offered £150.
The money was a significant amount for the labourer. When Deveraj realised that the labourer was determined to sell the baby, he warned that there would be consequences and convinced him not to sell the child. The father eventually handed the girl into Jubilee’s care.
The rescue completed, the baby was safe. She was named Glory.
She was taken directly to Jubilee’s shelter, the first child to be given refuge.
Danny Smith was in Bombay as this remarkable story unfolded. It was appropriate that this millennium baby should be given freedom and a new life as a symbol of the beginning of a new century.
The recent decision to award Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Prize was a good one for women and a good one for Pakistan but the decision to sentence Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, to death was a bad one for all women, all minorities, people of all faiths, and Pakistan. The brutal killing of a well known Ahmadi Muslim, Latif Aalam Butt, in Attock on Thursday, underlines the importance of Pakistan returning again to Mohammed Ali Jinah’s belief in a society which respects and safeguards its minorities.
The story of these two women, and the death of Latif Aalam Butt, undeline the growing Islamisation of Pakistani society and the Talibanization of a country which was founded on principles of tolerance and co-existence.
The original death sentence imposed in November 2010 on Asia Bibi was because of alleged blasphemy.
Her appeal, heard this week, was heard in the court of Justice Anwar-ul-Haq along with Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi, with a large number of lawyers were present from both sides. Asia Bibi’s team of lawyers comprised of Sardar Tahir Khalil Sandhu, Chaudhry Naeem Shakir and Advocate S. K. Chaudhry.
A large number religious clerics including Qari Saleem who had initially brought forward the complaint against Asia Bibi were present in the court. Members of radical Islamic militant organizations were also present inside and outside the court premises creating an extremely tense atmosphere.
The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) is an independent, non-government, non-profit organization, dedicated to the eradication of injustice in society by advocating on behalf of the under-privileged, under represented and marginalized groups within Pakistan. They report that:
“The Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal filed by the defense and upheld the November 2010 verdict of the sessions court, and maintained the death penalty for Asia Bibi.
The Defense filed its written arguments exposing that the witnesses lacked credibility and the apparent construction of false accusations.
The court however held valid and credible the allegations of the two Muslim women who apparently witnessed the alleged blasphemy committed by Asia Bibi.
The verdict has been termed “a victory of Islam” by the Islamic Clerics who celebrated by congratulating each other and chanting religious slogans outside the Lahore High Court.
The appeal will now be taken to the Supreme Court the third and final level of Justice in Pakistan.
The Advocacy and Legal Aid team of The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) were present in the court during the proceedings.
Expressing disappointment and concern over the verdict Ms. Michelle Chaudhry President of The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) stated “We are disappointed and terribly upset over the decision of the Lahore High Court; it is an undoubted fact that in blasphemy cases the judges come under severe pressure and face life threatening circumstances which more than often cause them to be biased in their judgment; however we still have hope as we turn to the Supreme Court of Pakistan for Justice. We remain optimistic that the rule of law will prevail and Justice will be done. For now that is our only hope.”
The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) may be reached at email@example.com
Pakistan is sliding toward extremism by Farahnaz Ispahani and Nina Shea, Special to CNN:
Recall also that :
Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minority Affairs Minister, and Salman Taseer, Punjab’s former governor, were both outspoken critics of the blasphemy conviction of Christian mother Asia Bibi, and both were gunned down in 2011.
The blasphemy law was originally introduced to appease extremists, but has instead stimulated an appetite for more. No Christian supports blasphemy but laws like these are not appropriate as a way of discouraging blasphemy.
Shahbaz Bhatti correctly observed that: “This law is creating disharmony and intolerance in our society.” The law legitimizes and arouses religious passions. Thatv is why Pakistan should repeal it. Let them show compassion to Asia Bibi and remove a law that allows cases like hers to reach the courts in the first place.She has already spent four harrowing years on death row – much in solitary confinement. Five earlier hearings had been cancelled and there has been intimidation of lawyers and judges.
All who care for justice and who oppose the execution of Asia Bibi should write to the Pakistan Ambassador and to the Chief Justice, Nasirul Mulk, calling for the Supreme Court to quickly arrange a review of this case, and the sentence, and to ensure Asia Bibi’s safety and care while she continues to languish in prison.